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View Full Version : Driving to Juneau, Alaska - Can it be done?


Kel Varnsen - Latex Division
08-01-2004, 01:48 AM
Is it possible to drive to Juneau, Alaska from the lower 48 or does a person have to take a ferry part of the way?

silenus
08-01-2004, 02:04 AM
AFAIK, Juneau cannot be reached by a land route by automobile from the Lower 48. You have to either fly or float in.

Ringo
08-01-2004, 02:10 AM
Mapquest just gave me a route to Juneau from Vancouver that relies on the Juneau Skagway/Haines Ferry. My atlas doesn't show any land only route.

Thaumaturge
08-01-2004, 02:10 AM
As a related question, just how far north along the pacific coast can you drive before you run out of road?

Q.E.D.
08-01-2004, 02:12 AM
AFAIK, Juneau cannot be reached by a land route by automobile from the Lower 48. You have to either fly or float in.
It can according to MapQuest (http://mapquest.com/directions/main.adp?go=1&1a=&1c=seattle&1s=WA&1z=&1y=US&do=nw&1ex=1&2ex=1&src=maps&ct=NA&2a=&2c=Juneau&2s=AK&2z=&2y=US&2pn=&2l=hRHGOwT%2bC4c%3d&2g=W035AWKTIhBcTEfpmASbHw%3d%3d&2v=CITY&2pl=). There does, however, appear to be a shortish ferry trip involved near Juneau proper. I chose a route from Seattle WA as the stating point, being the closest major city in the lower 48.

silenus
08-01-2004, 02:24 AM
There does, however, appear to be a shortish ferry trip involved near Juneau proper.

That's what I mean...eventually you have to float, if even for a short way. :D

silenus
08-01-2004, 02:28 AM
As a related question, just how far north along the pacific coast can you drive before you run out of road?

Depends on how you define "along the coast." There is not a whole lot of road along the coast much above Vancouver, BC. You can make it as far as Powell River (50 miles or so from Vancouver) and that's it. Lots of settlements on the coast, but you have to get there some other way than by road.

Early Out
08-01-2004, 08:55 AM
There does, however, appear to be a shortish ferry trip involved near Juneau proper.That depends upon your definition of "shortish." The ferry from Haines to Juneau is a good 75 mile trip, and takes about 5 hours. If you take the shortest highway route, you end up taking the ferry from Skagway to Juneau (via Haines), which is closer to 90 miles, and about 6 hours.

Chefguy
08-01-2004, 10:20 AM
There is no road to Juneau. If our moron senator gets his way, however, that could change, as he wants to build a road from Juneau to Skagway. Bad idea.

As mentioned, you can drive to Haines or Skagway via the Alcan Highway, then take the ferry to Juneau, but it's several hours. The drive from WA to either town is several days.

Turek
08-01-2004, 11:11 AM
There is no road to Juneau. If our moron senator gets his way, however, that could change, as he wants to build a road from Juneau to Skagway. Bad idea.

For those of us in more temperate climes, why is this a bad idea?

ftg
08-01-2004, 12:10 PM
First of all, such a highway is modern day pyramid building and nothing more. Just a way to waste a lot of public money for no real economic benefit in order to glorify public officials. It would be the Senator Cheops Memorial Highway.

Secondly, the upkeep costs and snow clearing would be horrendous. More $ down the drain. It couldn't possibly be open year round, so the ferry services would still have to be maintained, and then subsidized for the slightly lesser amount of business they would do in the summer. In business terminology, this is called a "lose-lose situation".

Johanna
08-01-2004, 12:20 PM
One wonders why the heck have a city like Juneau as the state capital at all. There was a book quite a few years ago titled Coming into the Country that described the search for a new Alaskan capital. What ever happened to that idea? Have Alaskans given up on siting a capital in the main part of the state? Somewhere between Anchorage and Fairbanks, IIRC.

silenus
08-01-2004, 12:35 PM
Wellllllll........as far as that goes, when I was still living in Anchorage, we voted to move the capital to someplace reasonable. Problem is, the State Legislature refuses to allocate any money for such a move. So they sit in Juneau. :smack:

They do things like this:

AS 44.06.055. Relocation Expenditures.
State money may be expended to relocate physically the capital or the legislature from the present location only after a majority of those voting in a statewide election have approved a bond issue that includes all bondable costs to the state of the relocation of a functional state legislature or capital to the new site over the twelve-year period following such approval. The commission established in AS 44.06.060 shall determine all bondable costs and total costs including, but not limited to, the costs of moving personnel and offices to the relocation site; the social, economic, and environmental costs to the present and relocation sites; and the costs to the state of planning, building, furnishing, using, and financing facilities at least equal to those provided by the present capital city.

In 1982,when the people were asked if they wanted to spend the money to relocate (estimated to total $2,843,147,000) they voted it down.

dtilque
08-01-2004, 03:12 PM
Depends on how you define "along the coast." There is not a whole lot of road along the coast much above Vancouver, BC. You can make it as far as Powell River (50 miles or so from Vancouver) and that's it. Lots of settlements on the coast, but you have to get there some other way than by road.
Checking the maps, I see two gaps in the roads between Vancouver and Powell River, one along the north side of Howe Sound and the other at Jervis Inlet. So you can't even drive there without using ferries (assuming there are ferries, I don't see any marked on the map).

dtilque
08-01-2004, 03:18 PM
How passable are the roads to Skagway and Haines? Do you need a 4-wheel drive or can ordinary cars make it? Are the roads only open in summer?

silenus
08-01-2004, 03:28 PM
The roads are open only in summer, IIRC, but are capable of being driven by cars. 4wheel isn't needed, although it can be handy. I drove the Alcan in a Nissan pickup, and my folks drove it in a Ford LTD. The rest of the roads are comparable, I think. I know the one into Haines is.

Chefguy
08-01-2004, 05:41 PM
ftg: Good answer. Couldn't have said it better myself. Add to the equation that folks in Juneau don't want all that rubber traffic coming into town. The streets are very narrow and the place is built on the side of a mountain. There are NO RV lots in Juneau and the local government won't allow any to be built.

The Capital: Moving the capital has been voted on and approved numerous times. The cost is prohibitive and the taxpayers won't approve the bond issues in order to fund it (it's all part of the pervasive 'gimme something for nothing, but no goldurn gubmint interference' mentality that seems to have taken over here).

Skagway and Haines: The roads are perfectly fine. You don't need a 4-wheel drive for any part of it, nor on the Alcan. All three are paved roads. The scenery alone is worth the drive.

DesertDog
08-01-2004, 09:50 PM
In 1982,when the people were asked if they wanted to spend the money to relocate (estimated to total $2,843,147,000) they voted it down.2.8-billion dollars? How many files do they have?

DD

Early Out
08-01-2004, 10:38 PM
2.8-billion dollars? How many files do they have?

DDMoving the files ain't so easy when you're talking about a city with no road access. No big trucks in or out. Then there's the cost of moving the people. People who might have trouble selling their houses, and therefore will need financial assistance.

On top of all that, the statute that silenus dug up for us makes it clear that the costs to be considered also have to include "social, economic, and environmental costs," which could include damn near anything. For starters, the economic loss to Juneau of having the state government move out would be one hell of a hit. Juneau is really just a small town, and the state government operations there probably constitute a major portion of its economic activity.

silenus
08-01-2004, 10:45 PM
No kidding. In reality, you are talking about starting a whole new city from scratch. Think of it as picking up Juneau and setting it down in Willow.

How much did Brasilia cost, adjusted for inflation?

Of course with modern electronics and the Internet, having the reps down in Juneau isn't such a big deal. It keeps them from underfoot, and you don't have to look at them except in an election year, but you can still yell at them anytime you want! :D

dqa
08-01-2004, 11:19 PM
The New York Times had an article last week about the road:
Road proposal splits Alaska's capital city (http://azcentral.com/news/articles/0725juneau25.html)

yabob
08-01-2004, 11:46 PM
From that article:
This touchy question has divided the 31,000 people of Juneau, the only state capital that cannot be reached by car, for decades. And it is creeping into conversation again, as Alaska transportation officials prepare to seek public comment next month on their latest plan for a road.
That must be one Hellacious long tunnel or bridge out to Honolulu. I don't see it on my Rand McNally.

dqa
08-02-2004, 01:39 AM
From that article:
That must be one Hellacious long tunnel or bridge out to Honolulu. I don't see it on my Rand McNally.Actually, it is possible to reach Honolulu by car - if you're one of the half-million or so people who live outside the Honolulu district but on the island of Oahu. Such is not the case in Juneau.

dtilque
08-02-2004, 02:03 PM
Actually, it is possible to reach Honolulu by car - if you're one of the half-million or so people who live outside the Honolulu district but on the island of Oahu. Such is not the case in Juneau.
Yes, but try driving to Honolulu from Kailua Kona or Lahaina...

If Alaska does move their capital to Willow, I sure hope they rename the place. I'm not sure I could handle having that as the name of a state capital.

It's not like towns haven't been renamed before upon becoming capitals, although perhaps not always for the better. Regina, Sask used to be Pile of Bones; St. Paul, MN was originally Pig's Eye; and Helena, MT started life as Last Chance Gulch. It seems to me that these places would benefit by reverting to their former names...

Muffin
08-02-2004, 02:58 PM
And keeping the politicians tucked away without road access is a bad thing?

Johanna
08-05-2004, 08:02 PM
Juneau was originally named Harrisburg. Wouldn't do to have two state capitals with the same name, now would it? (That's probably why its name was changed?) Richard Harris (not to be confused with the late Irish actor who played A Man Called Horse and Dumbledore) and Joe Juneau were two drunken prospectors who found gold near the site named for them. Juneau was not even American. He came from Quebec. Is this really a person you want your state capital named for?

Why didn't they just leave the capital at Sitka? What was the big attraction of moving the capital to a place like Juneau, anyway? Sitka, after all, had more history behind it, as the original capital of the Russian territory. It had a name change too: it had previously been named Novy Arkhangel'sk.

bughunter
08-05-2004, 08:56 PM
Yes, but try driving to Honolulu from Kailua Kona or Lahaina...
You could do it in one of these (http://i.cnn.net/cnn/2003/WORLD/americas/07/23/offbeat.cuba.migrants.truck.ap/story.2.truck.boat.jpg)!

Skywatcher
08-05-2004, 10:29 PM
You could do it in one of these (http://i.cnn.net/cnn/2003/WORLD/americas/07/23/offbeat.cuba.migrants.truck.ap/story.2.truck.boat.jpg)!I was expecting something like this (http://search.eb.com/normandy/art/odukwee001p1.jpg).

Colophon
08-06-2004, 06:37 AM
There does, however, appear to be a shortish ferry trip involved near Juneau proper. I chose a route from Seattle WA as the stating point, being the closest major city in the lower 48.

Hmm.

14: Go Southeast on JUNEAU SKAGWAY/HAINES FERRY to local road. 87.4 miles

I don't call 87.4 miles "shortish".

One other bit of Mapquest weirdness - if you look at the maps for each section of that journey, the thick purple line showing the route does not coincide with the roads. Odd.

Muffin
08-06-2004, 09:20 AM
One other bit of Mapquest weirdness - if you look at the maps for each section of that journey, the thick purple line showing the route does not coincide with the roads. Odd.

Sasquatch trail.

bughunter
08-06-2004, 03:45 PM
Perhaps they assume you're driving this (http://autoescala.com/autoescala/ertl/er33141.jpg)?

Chefguy
08-06-2004, 06:26 PM
Why didn't they just leave the capital at Sitka? What was the big attraction of moving the capital to a place like Juneau, anyway? Sitka, after all, had more history behind it, as the original capital of the Russian territory. It had a name change too: it had previously been named Novy Arkhangel'sk.

Because of the gold discovery mentioned in your first paragraph. Juneau was thought to have enough potential to become a major economic force for the forseeable future.

Anchorage, by the way, was originally called "Alaska City" which was the name put forward by the founders as the official moniker. I, for one, am glad they changed it.

yabob
08-06-2004, 07:36 PM
Of course, Sitka is even more inaccessible. Plug that into mapquest, and you will find that you have a longer ferry ride. In fact, you have to take the Ferry to Juneau to pick up another Ferry (longer) to Sitka. Had Sitka remained the capital, there probably wouldn't have been a road built to it either.

In 1906, the choice of Juneau probably made sense. The Alaska railroad hadn't been constructed yet, and Anchorage had not yet become an incorporated city. Practically all commerce with Alaska was by water.

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