Anchorage unhappy with bridge plans

City says project would make it harder to pursue development

Posted: Thursday, November 23, 2006

ANCHORAGE - The city of Anchorage is criticizing proposals to put a bridge across the Knik Arm, finding each one is "unacceptable."

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In its evaluation, the city says the project will hurt downtown Anchorage by putting thousands more cars daily on two main streets. The city says the bridge as proposed would make it harder for the city to go ahead with planned development.

The project, which calls for tunneling under the Government Hill neighborhood, also would harm that neighborhood, the city says. And it says the span would cause Anchorage to lose jobs and people to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

The comment period for a draft environmental impact statement on the proposed Knik Arm bridge ended Friday. The bridge is estimated to cost $600 million.

The environmental report, used by the city to evaluate the proposals, outlines options for designing the bridge and access roads. One alternative cited is not to build the bridge at all. The other two propose different routes under Government Hill.

Mayor Mark Begich said the city is not opposed to the project. If the Knik Arm Crossing and Toll Authority could come up with alternatives to the major points of opposition, such as not cutting through Government Hill or pouring traffic into downtown, the city could get behind it, he said.

"We don't want them to do what the (authority) has done over and over again, which is tell us everything is going to be OK," said Begich.

The Knik Arm Crossing and Toll Authority has received about 275 public comments since the report became public in September, said Henry Springer, executive director of the authority.

It will consider and respond to all the points raised and produce a final environmental impact statement. Springer said that could come as early as January, unless the authority discovers the report requires significant additional work.

The city's comments were about as expected, Springer said.

"We take them seriously. We also disagree with a lot of the statements," he said.

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