The terminus of the project has been changed from Skagway because actions by National Park Service (NPS) officials at the Klondike Park have resulted in the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) having no choice but to consider lands surrounding Skagway as Section 4(f) lands. FHWA regulations do not allow federal funds to be used to build highway projects in 4(f) areas when there is a feasible and prudent alternative. Section 4(f) lands include significant public parks, recreation areas, wildlife and waterfowl refuges, and historic sites.
"The NPS has taken the position that all undeveloped areas within the Skagway and White Pass National Historic Landmark, including previously disturbed locations, are contributing elements of the landmark. Based on the NPS position, the FHWA believes that construction of roads on those lands would be subject to 4(f). This has pretty much eliminated the possibility of constructing the Juneau Access project in that corridor," said DOT Commissioner Mike Barton. "One of our objectives with this project was to reduce the cost to the average person traveling from upper Lynn Canal to Juneau and vice versa, and we hoped to do this by reducing or eliminating the burden, cost and time commitment of taking a ferry. By extending the highway to a ferry terminal north of the Katzehin River, we can still benefit the traveling public by using lower cost day boats, operating as short shuttles."
Barton said the decision to change to another preferred alternative does not impact the timeline for construction of the project, nor does it require a new round of public comment on the supplemental environmental impact statement.
"The EIS process has been on-going for the past two years, and '2B' is an alternative that has been fully evaluated throughout that process," he said. "As such, the decision to designate '2B' as the new preferred alternative will not require an extension of the EIS process or a delay in the timeline to construction."