Dunleavy names construction advocate to lead Department of Transportation

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy named the head of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska to lead the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

John MacKinnon was the department’s deputy commissioner of highways and public facilities from 2003 to 2008. He also served on the Juneau Assembly and the Juneau Planning Commission. In addition, he was a construction contractor for 25 years.

John MacKinnon is the executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska. He is Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy’s nominee to be the commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. He lives in Anchorage now, but was a longtime Juneau resident. MacKinnon was born in Juneau and served four terms on the Juneau Assembly from 1989 to 2001. (Photo courtesy Associated General Contractors of Alaska)

MacKinnon said his priorities as transportation commissioner will include safety and economic growth. He also said he’ll consider the sustainability of what the department is building and maintaining.

MacKinnon addressed some specific projects in his first press conference. He said the state should choose the most sustainable plan for the Alaska Marine Highway System.

MacKinnon said he would look to see what it would take to restart the Knik Arm bridge, the Juneau Access road, and the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project, depending on the direction Dunleavy gives him.

MacKinnon said he has always supported these projects, which he described as legacy projects. But Dunleavy added that the Knik Arm bridge would have to fit into the state’s fiscal reality.

MacKinnon said he and his wife, outgoing state Sen. Anna MacKinnon, have been focused on retirement. But in explaining why he took the job, he noted they both have worked in public service.

MacKinnon said he would look at what it would take to restart the Juneau Access road before he was asked about a potential conflict of interest he has with the project. MacKinnon owns 11 percent of Hyak Mining Co., which leases land to Kensington gold mine. MacKinnon said he would recuse himself from decisions affecting the Juneau Access road, which would benefit the mine.

Dunleavy made the announcement at the Greater Wasilla Chamber of Commerce office. He said the nearby Knik-Goose Bay Road is dangerous. He cited work on the road as an example of potential improvements to public safety and job creation.

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Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.