Dem hopes to spike Palin's second 'bridge to nowhere'
Published: Tuesday September 16, 2008

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Today may be the day of reckoning for a second "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. A Democratic lawmaker hopes to stop the project, which is intended for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's hometown.

"A $600 million bridge and highway project to link Alaska's largest city to Palin's town of 7,000 residents is moving full speed ahead, despite concerns the bridge could worsen some commuting and threaten a population of beluga whales," the Associated Press reports.

The Boston Globe adds, "Yet another project also known as a 'bridge to nowhere' - to connect Anchorage to the area near Palin's Wasilla home across the Knik Arm Crossing - continues to receive state support, though its congressional earmark was eliminated at the same time."

"Governor Palin's been in the news and she's been talking about one 'bridge to nowhere' and not the other," Lois Epstein, director of the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, told the paper. "She canceled one bridge, but that was the easier of the mega-projects her predecessor left her with."

The AP story continues "A Democratic council member in Anchorage will try Tuesday to spike the city's sponsorship of the project, which Palin supports with some reservations."

"This is basically an incredibly expensive project that doesn't help commuters, doesn't help create jobs and may drive whales to extinction,'' Justin Massey, an attorney advising environmentalists opposed to the proposal, told the AP. "It is also a project that serves the area where the governor is from, which is near and dear to her heart."

The AP continues, "The Knik Arm was one of two bridge proposals in Alaska awarded more than $450 million from lawmakers who requested money for special projects in 2005, when Young chaired the House Transportation Committee. Young, Alaska's 18-term congressman, has said Alaska still lacks basic roads, railroads and bridges that were developed long ago in older and less spacious states."

"At the time, Palin's running mate for the Republican ticket, Arizona Sen. John McCain, derided both projects as wasteful," the AP notes. "He called Young's highway bill a 'monstrosity' that was 'terrifying in its fiscal consequences.'"

According to the AP, "Anchorage Assembly members Patrick Flynn and Matt Claman, both Democrats, plan to introduce a proposal to kill the bridge on Tuesday. They argue the money would be better used to set up commuter van pools and fix Alaska's existing highways, some of which are so rutted that cars go skidding off the road."

"She clearly hasn't said 'no thanks' to this particular bridge,'' Claman told the AP. "If money were not an issue and we had no limits, maybe we'd build a bridge. But this is not a pragmatic or efficient way to spend scarce resources."

The Anchorage Daily News is advising Assembly members to vote yes on "the resolution to strike the Knik Arm Crossing from the city's long-range transportation plan."

The paper's editors write, "Circumstances have changed since the bridge authority was formed in 2003. Fuel, materials and construction costs have leaped. Alaska's wide-open pipeline to federal money has contracted as concern about increased deficits grows. Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young still have power, but minority status and the 'bridges to nowhere' moniker have turned off the federal tap for the Knik project.

What was at best a visionary project in a time of plenty now looks like a force-fed misallocation of scarce resources for the wrong bridge at the wrong time. Let's cut our losses -- and invest what's left in something better."