Alaska editorial: Palin should stop spending on airport bridge in Ketchikan

Posted: Monday, February 26, 2007

This editorial appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

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The proposed Ketchikan airport bridge was a doubtful project back when its construction cost was estimated around $250 million. It looked worse when the price tag grew to $320 million.

Now it looks downright hopeless at close to $400 million. That's the latest cost estimate from the Alaska Depart- ment of Transportation, assuming the project could be completed by 2012.

Governor, please say no and shut down spending.

The project has some federal money but is short about $300 million. No one expects Congress to kick in any more cash, and most legislators aren't willing to open up the state checkbook. So the likely place to find $300 million is from the pockets of users. But we're not talking about dropping a few coins into a toll basket. Get ready to dig into your wallet and pull out a lot of bills to drive on a long approach ramp to climb 200 feet in the air on one bridge, then down on a middle island, then up 120 feet in the air on a second bridge to reach the airport island, and down again on another long ramp. Or just leave it as is, and ride the shuttle ferry a few minutes for the short walk to the terminal.

But while opponents and supporters debate the likelihood that users will pay enough tolls to cover the costs, the state is moving ahead, spending $40 million on bridge design and a gravel road that may be used if the bridge is built.

Talk about putting the cart before the horse; this is like buying hay for the horse you don't have to pull the cart you can't afford.

The state would have to pay a penalty for canceling the contracts, but anything short of $40 million would be a savings. Governor, cancel the work until the bridge is a go.

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