High cost, uncertain benefit

Posted: Sunday, February 16, 2003

In the Feb. 6 Empire, Lew Williams again claims roads are the solution to our economic troubles. In the fashion typical of road building promoters he provides no specific information about the costs versus the benefits nor does he recognize some basic reasons why the Bradfield Road proposal has gone nowhere for 20 years.

He isn't telling you the Forest Service says the Bradfield Road would cost at least a quarter billion dollars and possibly closer to half a billion. Nowhere does Mr. Williams provide any hard evidence that benefits would outweigh costs. "Build it and hopefully they will come" is not a sound business strategy.

He isn't telling you the 1997 Department of Transportation report, "A Review-Bradfield Transportation Corridor Alternatives," concluded:

"The Bradfield project is not considered viable because:

• The British Columbia government is not interested in construction of their portion of the highway;

• The project benefits are marginal considering the required costs for a highway tunnel with safety features;

• There are other regional and statewide projects with greater benefit/cost ratios competing for capital funding; and,

• The Bradfield would raise operating budgets while other potential investments would lower them."

Our Transportation Department can't even maintain or plow snow from all the roads we already have and certainly can't afford the $10 million yearly it would take to keep an avalanche-prone mountain road like the Bradfield open. Over 50 airports in Alaska do not have adequate landing lights, a problem that DOT has identified but has been unable to fund.

Neither Mr. Williams nor Sen. Robin Taylor has acknowledged there is little Canadian interest in the Bradfield Road from government or the public. In fact, there is growing opposition in British Columbia towns like Stewart, Hazelton and Prince Rupert. It simply isn't neighborly, or good business, to continue to promote a project that B.C. is clearly not interested in.

Nor is it good business to spend millions of taxpayer dollars pushing a road proposal with high costs and with at best uncertain benefits and at worst more costs than benefits. If Sen. Taylor or Mr. Williams have specific economic data and studies then let's see it. But, they should realize their 20-year campaign for this road has gone nowhere for good reason - they simply can't justify the high costs and uncertain benefits.

Chris Zimmer


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