A big "A" for effort to Jeff Ottesen at the House Transportation and Finance committee meetings this week. The DOT's director of program development made a valiant, glib attempt to rationalize and explain the Murkowski administration's proposal to invest nearly a half-billion dollars of federal highway funds in the now-infamous "bridges to nowhere" over the next five years. Meanwhile, state electoral districts go begging for road infrastructure maintenance and repair monies at least equal to the proposed investments in the Knik Arm and Gravina Island projects.
Skeptical Finance Committee member Rep. Mike Hawker, who identified himself as a CPA, questioned the proposals from the standpoint of an accountant. After labored calculations presented by the administration's side, Mr. Hawker replied at the end of the meeting that he still had not been presented with a politically intelligible, acceptable balance sheet to present to his constituents, who have been complaining about the lack of funds for repair and improvement of the Seward Highway.
The pie-in-the-sky benefits - "speedy, safer access to Anchorage for commuters, job enhancement in the construction industries, progress in general" - touted by the administration as their basic arguments for the bridges are simply too far off and overly idealistic in this era of shrinking budgets and immediate necessities.
If the administration truly believes in cutting government spending and in spending available funding wisely for the benefit of all Alaskans and all Alaska electoral districts, then perhaps now is one timely moment for the administration to live up to its political rhetoric. Alaska voters with kosher sensibilities will have no problem, come election time, turning their noses away from the Knik Arm and Gravina Island shills and their proposed half-billion-dollar porkfest.