Gov. Walker listens to residents of Skagway during a town hall meeting. Photo by Suzanne Ashe

The Northern Lynn Canal corridor will not see a road to Juneau anytime soon, at least not under the Walker-Mallott administration.
With the unveiling of the fiscal year 2018 budget, Gov. Bill Walker announced on Dec. 15, the administration announced it had picked the “no-build” alternative for the Juneau Access Improvement project.
The project dates back to 1993 and over the years several different alternatives were considered.
On Oct. 14, Walker visited Skagway for a town hall meeting to discuss the proposed 47.9-mile road that would have extended from Berners Bay to a yet-to-be- built ferry terminal at Katzehin. The estimated cost of the project was $574 million, with an additional $5 million in annual operating and maintenance costs.
The bulk of the construction costs would have been covered by federal funds, but the state was still on the hook for about $57 million.
Citizens of Skagway were quite vocal about their opposition of the project. Many folks showed up to the meeting with protest signs.  Still others showed support for the plan known as Alternative 2B, the “no build” option that the governor eventually chose.
“I think the Governor has made the right decision given our current fiscal situation, especially because the increased operational costs would have been added to the Department of Transportation’s budget if one of the build options had been selected,” Rep. Sam Kito III (D-Juneau) said in a statement.  “My experience as an engineer has taught me to look closely at promises and pitfalls of any situation and, in balance, the Juneau Access project raised more red flags than green for me.”
According to a statement from the Governor, steps to ensure that $38.6 million in remaining state funds for the project will be available for other transportation and capital projects in the area.
“I am a builder by background and understand the importance of construction projects, but I am very concerned with our current multi-billion dollar fiscal crisis and must prioritize the need for fiscal resolution,” Walker said in a statement. “I’m grateful to the many great Alaskans who shared their knowledge and perspectives with me about this issue. I listened and learned from all of you. I flew the route and spoke with lots of folks equally divided on this project. I made this difficult decision after reviewing all litigation and all federal regulatory decisions on this project to date.
Above all, I was reminded that Southeast Alaska communities are deeply interconnected, with or without roads, and I pledge to do what I can to support and strengthen those critical economic and social ties.”
Walker said he is committed to working with Juneau and the surrounding regional communities to determine the best use of those dollars. Federal construction dollars have not been appropriated for the project.
“I participated in many of the dozens of Juneau Access meetings initiated by Governor Walker,” said Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, a long-time Southeast resident. “The review was exhaustive and thorough. Alaska’s need for fiscal certainty loomed large throughout and in that light the correct decision was made.”
By choosing the no-build alternative, the state will not have to repay $28 million in federal funds that have been spent on the project. The state will also consult with the federal government on how to best reallocate about $6 million in remaining federal earmarks for the project.
“I support the Governor’s effort to consult with stakeholders in the region to determine the best use of that money,” said Kito said.
In the next issue on Jan. 27, the News will have a local reaction to this story.