This editorial first appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:
It's now or never for a bridge to connect the community of Ketchikan to its airport.
Congressman Don Young worked for the past five years to secure funding to build the bridge. The funding appeared in the federal transportation bill this past year and the price tag for a small-town bridge created a national uproar. The media referred to it derogatorily and inaccurately portrayed Ketchikan. Under a swell of media pressure, Congress withdrew its endorsement of the bridge.
Congressman Young, in town recently, reiterated that the money earlier earmarked for the bridge would be coming to Alaska and it should be spent as Congress intended - on the bridge. With or without the earmark, Congress approved the money for the bridge, he pointed out.
The bridge has been in the planning stage for decades. At least 10 different options for access to the airport were evaluated. After public comment and expert reviews, the two-bridge span from Revilla to Pennock and Gravina islands received the nod.
In light of the national uproar created by the earmark, it is clear that this is Ketchikan's only chance to build a bridge to the airport. It would be next to impossible to put money for a bridge before Congress again. No Congressman would dare broach the subject, much less support it. It is a weathervane for negative publicity for whomever would suggest it. It wouldn't be considered for at least 50 years, if then, by a new Congress, and by then the price would be significantly higher.
That doesn't mean that Alaska won't get other federal transportation dollars. It will. It will get money for its existing roads and their repairs and maintenance. Like other states, it will be given its annual allotment. It just wouldn't be given money for a bridge.
Young encourages Alaskans, especially those beyond Ketchikan's borders, to think about the future of the state when deciding whether to give the money initially earmarked for the bridge to Ketchikan. Bridges build infrastructure for the state to develop and evolve. The state should support such infrastructure from Barrow to Fairbanks, Anchorage and Ketchikan. Each community will have, if it hasn't already, its major infrastructure project. Communities should support the others'. And those communities now should support Ketchikan's bridge project; it will benefit the whole state.
The bridge will take Ketchikan beyond its past and toward a vibrant future - now. It's now or never.