Comment today on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan

A ferry is seen on a sunny day with snowcapped mountains in the background as it sails in Southeast Alaska

Written by Aaron Brakel

August 30, 2023

Now is the time to check out the Alaska 2024-2027 Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan, with comments due by this Sunday, September 3. This is your opportunity to let the State know what you think about Alaska’s plans for transportation spending its own money as well as federal dollars over the next few years. Projects in the STIP typically receive significant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

In addition to the full PDF linked above, the projects in the STIP are viewable and sortable through an Airtable, which is kind of like a fancy Excel table, but don’t let that intimidate you. Here’s how to review it:

  • Search the document. In the Airtable, you can search by region, so for Southeast Alaska projects, sort by ‘Southeast region’ using the little magnifying glass at the top right part of the webpage. You can also use the Regions (Non-DOT) column to sort and filter. Once you’ve reviewed the projects that will have an impact on our region, don’t forget to take a look at Alaska-wide projects! 
  • For another way to view the data, find a column with a topic you are interested in – for example, ‘Type of Work.’ Find the column for ‘Type of Work’, and click the little down arrow in the ‘Type of Work’ box. In the little menu that pops up, click ‘Sort by this Field’, and in the next, when you click on ‘Select an Option’ you will be given a list of possible types of work projects to click on. This will generate a list you can read through and consider! 

Other tips for reviewing the STIP!

  • Make sure to refer to the STIP ID # when commenting on a project – you can find it in the leftmost column – it is a 4 or 5 digit number.
  • And make sure to comment here!

A couple of projects we’re keeping our eye on and that you might want to comment on include:

Cascade Point Ferry Terminal – (STIP ID #: 33974)

The Cascade Point Ferry Terminal remains a consistently bad idea. This dead-end project would permanently establish an industrial footprint in the heart of Berners Bay, 45 miles north of Juneau, cutting a new road through the forest north of town, adding to the burden of road maintenance and snow removal, and expanding the area where first responders and police would need to provide services, all at a time when those services are already stretched to capacity. It would also make just getting on a ferry north more difficult for Juneauites and visitors who won’t want to drive an hour just to get to what is supposed to be their community’s ferry terminal. Ferry service north from Juneau via Auke Bay is the best option for the Alaska Marine Highway System. With Auke Bay Ferry Terminal already providing reliable and accessible service closer to the populated areas in Juneau, Cascade Point is an expensive, uneconomic, unnecessary, and genuinely bad idea that would significantly harm Berners Bay.  

North Douglas (Second) Crossing – (STIP ID #: 34346)

Another project that is drawing a lot of scrutiny is the Juneau North Douglas Crossing . This project would bisect the Mendenhall Wetlands State Game Refuge and further reduce and fragment this globally designated Important Bird Area which provides critical habitat for hundreds of species of resident and migratory birds and as well as key spawning, rearing, and feeding habitat for all five species of the salmon our community depends on. This project would have a substantial impact on the community and on the landscape that we hand on to future generations. According to the Southeast Alaska Land Trust, “The health of SEALT’s conservation properties, the Refuge as a whole, and the community of Juneau would be irrevocably damaged by locating a Juneau-Douglas North Crossing within the boundaries of the Refuge.” The Second Crossing would also likely enable development of a deep water port on the west side of Douglas Island, further increasing the significant impacts the cruise ship industry is already having on the Juneau area.

Alaska Marine Highway System

At SEACC, we always like it when we see Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferry projects included in the STIP. Four key projects for Southeast Alaska’s smaller communities involve upgrading community terminals so they can be used by the Alaska-class ferries, the Tazlina and the Hubbard. The STIP numbers for those updates are as follows:

  • Angoon Ferry Terminal Modifications (STIP ID #: 33883)
  • Yakutat Ferry Terminal Modifications (STIP ID #: 34129)
  • Pelican Ferry Terminal Modifications (STIP ID #: 33885)
  • Kake Ferry Terminal Modifications (STIP ID #: 34193)

In addition to these key rural ferry terminal projects, there are a number of other worthy AMHS projects in the STIP. Take a look (search (AMHS) and add them to your comments.

Neck Lake Road Reconstruction – (STIP ID #: 33825) 

Neck Lake Road Reconstruction, a $55 million expenditure, is a major road widening and paving project on the north end of Prince of Wales Island. The Prince of Wales Island Area Plan designates the Neck Lake area for recreation, wildlife and aesthetics, values which would be significantly negatively impacted by this project. There is no justification for this expenditure; the closest community, Whale Pass, has less than a hundred year-round residents, with the population currently falling as residents move out while the State logs their town. This road project does not benefit Prince of Wales Island residents, provides no lasting economic benefit, and will destroy more critical subsistence deer habitat. The single beneficiary from this project is the Viking Lumber Company – this road project is a giant and expensive timber industry subsidy with temporary benefits to a single company but with lasting negative environmental impacts. 

Culvert Repair and Replacement – (STIP ID #: 13239) so-called “Red” culverts

Why isn’t there more money allocated to Culvert Repair and Replacement? Culverts are the tunnels that carry streams or water under roads in Southeast, and are important both because they help manage the rain our rainforest climate provides, and also can help maintain fish passage even despite road and urban development. In other words, no working culvert, no fish!  At a million dollars a year, this is the only statewide money going to addressing so-called “red” culverts which pose barriers to safe fish passage. Much of this money will be used for culvert assessment, not repair. In Alaska, we need to do better to repair fish passage problems on our road system. This number should see a substantial increase and more emphasis on repair, as well as identification of problematic culverts.

So, folks, this is your chance to comment on the STIP. The deadline for comments is Sunday, Sept. 3, 2023. You can look through the full document or use the Airtable to sort and view projects. Either way you choose, here is the link to the STIP comment web form, so get your comments in, and don’t forget to include the STIP ID number for the project you are commenting on.

Thanks for taking part of your day to comment on the STIP!

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