Alaska editorial: Get on with building a bridge - any bridge

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2007

Ketchikan voted to build a bridge to its airport. Alaska's congressional delegation, in particular Rep. Don Young, secured the federal highway funds to pay for it.

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Alaska's Department of Transportation has between $200 and $250 million and can afford to build a Ketchikan bridge for that price.

The bridge has been discussed thoroughly; let's just build it.

State DOT officials outlined the community's options last week.

• Remain attached to the idea of the notorious $400 million two-span high bridge, referred to as "the bridge to everywhere" by Sen. Ted Stevens.

Stevens told the community during his visit last month that Congress couldn't get the additional funding needed to complete this option; by the time additional federal funds could be secured, the price likely would be even higher (and the bridge might have to be higher, too, because of the cruise industry ever-increasing the size of its ships).

The previous state administration announced to the community almost a year ago that the preferred alternative was the only realistic option.

The current administration says there are others.

• A lower east channel span from Revilla to Pennock Island and a 200-foot high span over the west channel from Pennock to Gravina Island. This option raises the west channel span 80 feet and lowers the east span by 140 feet from the preferred alternative.

• A single 200-foot high span starting near Cambria Drive on the city side and ending just south of the airport on Gravina.

• A 120-foot high span starting near Cambria on the city side and ending just south of the airport on Gravina.

Of course, the cost estimates for the Cambria options need to be updated.

It's anyone's guess how much they might be now. But let's get them quickly; a bridge at the west end at a reasonable price for bridges might be the best option.

The tunnel between the islands has always been a favorite. But the price tag on that, according to DOT, is comparable to the preferred alternative's prohibitive $400 million.

With the tunnel off the table, the community on record in support of a bridge, the opportunity to build it for half of its original cost (with design adjustments) or move it to the west end for the right price, local officials need to get the facts and decide which option to take.

In any case, it's time to go with something.

The community has exhaustively debated the matter. It has set direction through the ballot box for local officials. They just need to follow their marching orders and give the state the go-ahead on a lower-priced span.

Let's improve access to Gravina before the price goes up on the remaining alternatives.

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