Say 'no' to Knik Arm, Gravina Island bridges

Posted: Monday, April 03, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:

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The two proposed mega-bridges that supplied the nation with a lot of yuks at Alaska's expense no longer get the national attention they once did since Congress backtracked last year and withdrew the requirement that federal transportation money be spent on the bridges. But those bridges remain in the state's plans, and the governor plans to spend a chunk of federal money on them even though Congress has said he doesn't have to do so.

It's a decision that comes at the expense of other places, such as Fairbanks and the rest of the northern region of the state Department of Transportation. Anchorage would suffer, too, even though one of the two bridges would head out of the city. The mayors of Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough have complained of project delays in their areas if the governor's bridge plan goes forward.

Now is not the time for the bridges.

The two bridge projects sit on the recently finalized Statewide Transportation Improvement Program list for the years 2006 to 2008, a decision by the Murkowski administration that will cost the northern region about $115 million in transportation funding over the next six years, according to estimates. That's an unacceptable loss.

Local Fairbanks leaders, the area's legislators, and the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce have all raised the alarm about the funding problem caused by the bridges, which would suck money away from several local projects that are important to more than just locals here. Those projects, which would be canceled or delayed, include work on the Richardson, Parks and Elliott highways and the Steese Expressway and main arteries such as Airport Way and Cushman Street.

And why embark on such mega-projects anyway when there is such uncertainty about the total cost and the state's share of that cost? The Knik Arm bridge is estimated - many say loosely - to cost $600 million, while the Gravina bridge has a $315 million price tag. With the governor allocating $185 million to the bridges in his proposed budget, the question about who will pay the rest of the construction cost looms large. Too large.



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