State Seeks to Reverse Juneau Access Decision
June 17, 2011, Juneau, Alaska - At the direction of Governor Sean Parnell and Attorney General John Burns, the Alaska Department of Law has filed a request for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse a previous decision, and uphold the lengthy process and analysis used by the Federal Highway Administration and the State Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) to develop and permit the Juneau Access road project. The project would provide a significantly better transportation link between the capital of Juneau and the intercontinental highway system while at the same time reducing state costs and traveler costs.
A three judge panel of the Ninth Circuit ruled by a 2-1 majority that the 14-year process of studying and analyzing the project was flawed because it did not adequately review a “non-construction” or “no build” alternative. The alternative urged by environmental organizations would have removed ferry service from other Alaska communities and residents to add to the existing ferry service in Lynn Canal.
“The Federal Highway Administration explained during the study process that there were many non-construction alternatives and that taking ferry service away from other Alaskans and communities to serve Lynn Canal was unreasonable,” Governor Parnell said. “It’s time to move from expensive endless studies to building roads and putting Alaskans to work.”
The state asserts the decision is flawed because, taking ferry service away from other communities is unreasonable; operational changes alone cannot meet the purpose or need; and the new procedural requirement imposed by the court for studying any number of combinations of existing assets as potential “no-build” options is not required by law. The state brief outlined how the decision conflicts with previous decisions of other federal circuit courts of appeal and previous decisions of the Ninth Circuit.