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LAST CALL FOR COMMENTS: West Susitna Industrial Corridor



 

West Susitna, Project #34206: ONLY 2 DAYS LEFT!  Your Voice Makes a Difference!

 

Time is Running out!! Make your comments on West Susitna Access in the draft DOT STIP plan. Don't let mining special interest groups spend our state's money on their project.


In late July, the DOT introduced the state's draft STIP plan for 2024-2027. A surprise inclusion in this draft plan was the first 15 miles of the West Susitna Industrial Access Corridor and bridge across the Big Su. The total cost of this project is currently estimated at $82.5 million for the state of Alaska.


Alaska is overwhelmed with bad roads. The $82.5 million allocated for this portion of the industrial road could be used to fund existing road improvements or build other needed roads that have already been vetted and identified throughout Alaska. This sneaky shift in tactics to push through an unpopular project for industrial access isn’t fooling anyone.


To see the DOT STIP Project Summaries, Click Here.

To see the detailed DOT Extended Timeline, Click Here.

To learn more about West Susitna Industrial Access, Click Here.


Comments on the proposed 2024-2027 STIP funding are accepted until Sunday, September 3rd, 2023. This is a vital opportunity to make your voice heard in keeping the West Susitna Drainage a wild place. 


Comments can be made here.


*** Be sure to reference West Susitna Access, # 34206 in your comments.**

If you would like tips and talking points to utilize in your comments, see Here.

If you would like to get ahead of the curve and would like help preparing your testimony, please email info@susitnarivercoaltion.org

 

Need Some Inspiration? SRC Official Comments on the DOT STIP

 

Public Comment: Draft DOT STIP 2024-2027 

Project: West Susitna Access, #34206 


I am writing on behalf of the Susitna River Coalition, a watershed organization based in the Susitna Valley. The Susitna River Coalition (SRC) comments on behalf of our more than 10,000 Alaskan individuals, groups, and businesses who support our work. We support the communities, livelihoods, and ecosystems that are sustained by the resources of the Susitna River Watershed from the headwaters in the Alaska Range to the mouth in Cook Inlet. 


The Susitna River Coalition believes that the West Susitna Access road should be removed from the draft DOT STIP for 2024-2027. The inclusion of this project is counter to the mission of the DOT STIP, which is to put money towards highway improvements, bridge repairs, waterways projects, and public transportation enhancements. The West Susitna road does not fit into any of these prioritized categories, and thus should be removed on merit alone. 


In addition to West Susitna not falling within the scope of the DOT STIP mission, we have many other concerns regarding the project moving forward. Most pressing, is that Alaskans simply do not want this project. When the Mat-Su Borough conducted outreach on this project in 2022, around 75% of individuals were against the building of this corridor, whether public access was provided OR it was kept private. 


Cost also presents a major issue.. With projects like the Cooper Landing Bypass, more than 2x exceeding the original cost estimate, we believe DOT is not providing an accurate estimate for the West Susitna road. Since a route has yet to be finalized and a bridge across the Big Su is a massive project, the cost estimates will undoubtedly exceed the proposed $82.5 million dollars that have been allocated in the plan. When the money runs out, what will Alaskans be left with? Another half-finished project is not what the state needs, and does not benefit everyday Alaskans. 


Safety must also be addressed with this project. This portion of West Susitna Industrial Road will most certainly be a multi-use road if constructed. The remainder of the project will be built solely for industry, but those heavy mining trucks will also be traveling along this portion of the road. Mixed use roads with heavy haul mining trucks, or double-ore loaders, and civilian traffic are notorious for dangerous conditions and casualties. How will the high risk of this mixed use 15 miles section be addressed? 


Members of the Susitna River Coalition community have raised salient concerns about limited state funds being spent on a new project when DOT cannot take care of the existing infrastructure. Our community roads have potholes and cracks, our culverts require updates for fish passage and flood mitigation, and roads are not plowed in a timely manner. Our community members would strongly prefer these issues prioritized prior to throwing away funds towards the Governor’s pet project. Additionally, there have been no answers about who will maintain this new road and who will police it. Where will the funds come from to address these concerns? 


Separate from the significant concerns about fiscal responsibility, safety, and bewildering desire for a road, the project raises ethical questions regarding culturally important sites. The bridge is slated to cross the Big Su at Su Station. Su Station is a vitally important Dena’ina cultural site in both living memory and more distant times. We have yet to see a DOT or AIDEA study looking into preserving this important site, and the archaeological and cultural studies needed to adequately identify and mitigate damage to the site will require multiple, extensive field seasons. Are the funds to hire and implement cultural studies included in the cost estimates? Estimates for these activities should be included in the cost outlook for the project or the location of the bridge modified. 


In addition to the concerns we have raised, the area is already accessible to normal, everyday Alaskans. Normal, working class Alaskans are already recreating in the area by foot, dogsled, snow machine, ATV, Argo, cross-country ski, boat, airplane, and raft to hunt, fish, trap, camp, and simply enjoy the wilderness in the Mat-Su’s backyard. We don’t need to spend money on what Alaskan’s are already enjoying. 


In closing, please pull West Susitna Access, project #34206, from the draft DOT STIP 2024-2027 plan. It is a fiscally irresponsible and unnecessary project that does not benefit everyday Alaskans and that everyday Alaskans simply do not want. 



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