Last fall, a bipartisan congress passed the Infrastructure and Jobs Act providing significant funding for infrastructure projects around the country and here in Alaska. Now, municipalities, tribes, and state agencies are beginning to apply for those funds. Infrastructure shapes our lives by physically shaping our surroundings. The projects we embark on now will impact the next several decades. The infrastructure built in the next five years needs to set up our kids and grandkids to have safe and healthy communities, flourishing ecosystems, and a livable climate. A coalition of representatives from a variety of sectors in Alaska compiled a set of principles to support that vision.
Below are a few of those principles that will help insure infrastructure supports our environment rather than degrading it:
Focus on existing infrastructure
- Maintain and get maximum use of existing transportation infrastructure before building new infrastructure (i.e., “fix it first”)
- Oppose highway expansion. It creates more traffic and fractures ecosystems.
- Fund maintenance, not just construction.
- Support new public transit and active transportation projects.
- New funding should heavily prioritize buses, rail, ferries, sidewalks, multi-purpose trails, and protected bike lanes. Funds should be “flexed” from highway projects to fund these priorities.
- Make plans to move people, not cars. Commonly traveled routes are best suited to trains, buses, ferries, and bike paths. Less common routes need electric vehicle charging stations.
- Repurpose Alaska’s existing rail infrastructure to make the train a viable transportation option.
- Fund infrastructure that supports in-fill housing and commercial development, rather than building for new sprawl that stretches resources even more thinly.
Protect fish and wildlife
- Require transportation infrastructure design, construction, and operations to minimize impacts to fish and wildlife habitat (including addressing habitat impacts at a project’s earliest stages)
- Utilize ferries instead of roads wherever possible to protect habitat.
Reduce greenhouse gas emissions
- Support land-use and energy-efficiency policies that promote lower carbon transportation options (e.g., public transportation, walking, bicycling, and electric-hybrid vehicles over non-hybrid vehicles, green buildings)
- Utilize rail and water transport for freight whenever possible instead of truck or air transport
- Use funds from the infrastructure bill to accelerate our transition to clean energy.
State Director, Alaska Environment Action
Dyani is the state director of Alaska Environment and runs campaigns to promote clean air and water, open spaces, and a livable climate in Alaska. She lives in Anchorage and loves to hike, ski and hang out with her family.