Archive for the ‘road to tanana’ Tag

Road funds best spent elsewhere – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Letters To Editor   Leave a comment

Road funds best spent elsewhere – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Letters To Editor.

I think this gentleman means well, but he fails to understand why the governor is promoting “roads to resources.” In Alaska, 80% of the communities have no road access to the rest of the world. Roads are involved in over 75% of all business transactions in our nation. Do you see the problem?

In order to make mining feasible in Alaska, we need to build roads so that minerals can be transported. They don’t need to be super-highways. One lane gravel roads will do, but roads we must have.

Maybe the magic petroleum fairy will convince the federal government and the big multinationals to open up even a fraction of our untapped proven reserves — estimated at well over twice what Prudhoe has produced in the last 30 years. Maybe … but we already have miners working in small operations all over the state, struggling to get their resources to market.

There’s really no reason to build an engineering building on UAF or upgrade our local schools if there’s no economy to support the parents of those school children or to provide jobs for those engineering graduates. Roads to Resources does that.

We don’t really need these new buildings and teachers until we have a means to provide access to jobs for the general public.

It’s as simple as that.

Posted July 31, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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A road to opportunities, challenges: Tanana road addition a meaningful development for Yukon River town – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials   Leave a comment

A road to opportunities, challenges: Tanana road addition a meaningful development for Yukon River town – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Editorials.

Alaska starts work on road to Tanana – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Local News   3 comments

Road to TananaAlaska starts work on road to Tanana – Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Local News.

Nowhere in the nation are we building new roads. Most roads parallel older roads or are built on top of older roads. Only here in Alaska are we building a new road to someplace that has never been connected to the road system before.

That is a truly exciting idea and one that I hope Alaska will continue because the key to moving away from the colonial relationship we have with the United States is to access our resources and connect our people to them so that we can all benefit by their use.

That is the true meaning of progressivism — progress that allows humans to make the greatest use of our liberty to benefit ourselves and, as we are able, to benefit others.

Posted July 22, 2014 by aurorawatcherak in Alaska

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Road to Nome (in Our Dreams)   4 comments

As a fiscal conservative who wants to see government shrink to the very bare minimum of what is needed, there are few services government performs that I think are essential. Roads are among them. I’m not saying government does it best, but there are facts about roads that speak volumes. Nationwide, every dollar spent on roads results in about $8 in economic activity. That’s a broad strokes figure. Not every road is going to pencil out like that, but it’s still impressive. Departments of Transportation tend to be one of the few government agencies that actually energize the economy.

Alaska has two main highways, a handful of secondary highways, and another handful of unpaved improved dirt roads that we call highways. The Seward-Parks-Elliott-Dalton is the single most important transportation route in Alaska, a thin blue-grey line from the port in Seward (which is mostly a tourist destination), through Alaska’s largest city and commercial port (Anchorage), over the formidable Alaska Range past Denali Park, through Alaska’s second-largest “city” (Fairbanks), through the Livengood mining district, over the Yukon River, then over Atigun Pass to the North Slope where the oil patch is the economic heart of the State. The Dalton roughly parallels the TransAlaska Pipeline. The Richardson Highway runs the length of the TransAlaska Pipeline from Valdez (where TAPS terminates in the only reliable deep-water port in Alaska) to Fairbanks, where it hooks into the Elliot-Dalton highway north to the Slope. (btw – I am simplifying the highways, skipping some smaller segments, so don’t bother to correct me). The southern stretches of the Parks and the Richardson are joined by the Glenn Highway and the unpaved Denali Highway. The Alaska Highway takes off to Canada from the Richardson at Delta Junction. The Steese Highway north of Fairbanks provides access to the Central mining district and the Yukon River.

That’s pretty much it. The rest of the roads are unpaved and closed during the winter, sometimes impassable in the summer and increasingly not maintained by the Department of Transportation because ADOT&PF is like every other state DOT in the nation, hooked on Federal Highway Administration dollars and FHWA doesn’t pay to maintain unpaved highways. We leave these roads unpaved because they actually hold up better to permafrost, but FHWA sets standards that make sense for California, not Alaska. I personally think we should cut the apron strings, but I’m not in charge. The point is, Alaska is mostly roadless.

Since before Statehood, Alaska has been talking about the road to Nome. It even appeared on some of our early state maps. In those days, mineral wealth seemed the most likely economic generator for Alaska and the proposed Fairbanks to Nome corridor has proven deposits dwarfed only by its suspected deposits. That was before Humbolt Exploration found oil in Prudhoe Bay and we decided to extend the Elliott north rather than west. The Elliott Highway to Nome has never really been anything more than a dream, but we’re taking very baby steps toward getting started on that dream with the Western Alaska Access Planning Study (WAAPS).

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities conducted over 30 public meetings in affected communities, held other stakeholder meetings and obtained public comments to complete the Public Involvement Executive Summary in May 2011. In December 2011, the Corridor Staging and Alternatives Report was completed, recommending the first stage to be constructed should be the Elliott Highway near Manley Hot Springs to the Yukon River, near the village of Tanana.

The eventual road would extend approximately 500 miles and roughly parallel the Yukon River. It is estimated to cost $2.3 to 2.7 BILLION.

As part of the public involvement phase, there were about 620 people who attended the 31 meetings. That’s not bad given the low population of the 500-mile corridor. Overall, 55% favored providing east-west road access from Fairbanks to Nome. Those along the corridor favored the project by 62%. Why you would care if the road was built if it was nowhere near where you live is a mysterious concept to me. Maybe someone else could explain it.

Potential benefits to the Yukon River Corridor route include:

  • Lower passenger transportation costs
  • Lower fuel delivery costs
  • Lower freight and mail delivery costs
  • Lower mining and resource development costs
  • Lower energy and power infrastructure costs
  • Increase in jobs, income and access to services

The road to Nome is simply a dream at the moment, but there is a plan under development, starting with the 54-mile road to Tanana, which is actually under construction. The village of Tanana is mostly in favor of the project. In fact, a team from the village cleared the brush from the right-of-way this summer and fall. If things go well, there will be a pioneer road (think goat trail) from Tofty (at the end of the Elliott Highway that has been in existence since before Statehood) to the Yukon River opposite Tanana. The village itself will operate a ferry in summer and build a seasonal ice bridge in the winter to provide access across the village. The road should be open for winter-time travel by fall of 2014 and for summer travel sometime in 2015.

To understand how exciting this ought to seem – this is a brand-new road where there has never been a road. This is akin to the Interstate Highway System being completed when they finally opened the Swell in Colorado. The last brand-new road to brand-new territory Alaska built was the Parks Highway in the mid-1970s, right after the Dalton was built. There is nowhere in the country that is doing something like the road to Tanana.

This is not a road where anyone will be going 70 mph. We call it a “pioneer road”. It will be 16-feet wide, barely one-lane wide and it won’t be paved. I envision something similar to the Denali Highway. The 130-mile unpaved surface takes about six hours to drive if you’re not stopping. So, we’re talking 20-30 miles per hour.

It should be understood that the proposed road to Nome (which may never be built) is a semi-existing route. There are RS 2477 trails – some of which have been improved to improved-dirt road conditions. The area is not “untouched”. It’s been trekked before.

It should also be understood that only the road to Tanana is actually under construction. All other segments of the road are being planned, but they are a long way from reality. There are plans to build a road from Elim to the Council Highway, east of Nome, which would be Stage 2. This would provide direct, year-round access to Nome, which is the hub community for the villages of White Mountain, Golovin and Elim and it would improve access to Bluff Mine, a known significant mineral occurrence as well as exploration and development access to a historically resource-rich area and route near the potential deep-water port facility at Cape Darby. To actually work, the Elim-Council segment would require a major bridge over the Fish River and the port at Cape Darby is not built. It’s merely a dream.

The sheer cost of building the entire road predicates that the road be built in segments over several decades. It’s a great idea and the villages of the Yukon are mostly supportive of it. There are areas where existing RS2477 trails currently provide some access between villages, but currently, most villages rely on summer barges to bring in everything for a year, with general aviation aircraft providing passenger service for those who want or need to leave or come back.

The picture to the left should give you a sense of how isolated Tanana is at the moment.

Life in a Yukon River village is a lonely, isolated, expensive existence that many of the young are unwilling to live. For better or for worse, they’ve seen the elephant. They have television, which opens a window onto a whole world of opportunity beyond the summer fish camps, fall hunting, and winter trapping and hauling water and wood in the winter. Some folks would like to claim “alien voices” lured them away, but in reality, they are chasing the life they want to live. If the Yukon River villages are going to survive, they need access to the world so that the young are willing to come back and there are jobs in the area that will help them support themselves. People were not meant to live as exhibits in a zoo viewable by only those with enough financial scratch to take the eco-tourism super tour. Sitting around smoking cigarettes and relieving the boredom by hauling wood is a good recipe for heavy drug and alcohol abuse – which is rampant in those isolated villages. A road provides lot of benefits that cannot even be foreseen.

Yes, it will change their way of life. That might be a good thing.

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