September 21, 2007, 1:44 pm
The Bridge to Nowhere Gets Nowhere
By Patrick J. Lyons
Not coming soon: The bridge would have linked Ketchikan (in the foreground) with Gravina Island (in the distance) across the two channels of the Tongass Narrows and Pennock Island in between. That’s the airport runway just beyond the water on the far right. (Photo by Associated Press for The New York Times)
Word is on the wires that the State of Alaska has officially abandoned the $398 million project to build a bridge between Ketchikan, pop. 7,500, and nearby Gravina Island, where the town’s airstrip is located.
The project had become a symbol of budgetary pork, derided as the “bridge to nowhere” because Gravina Island has only a handful of residents and the cost of building the bridge seemed to many to be grossly out of proportion to its benefits. Critics howled after Senator Ted Stevens and Congressman Don Young, both Republicans, managed to get more than $200 million in federal money “earmarked” specifically for the bridge, as a stipulation tacked on to broader legislation with little or no debate.
Mounting public outrage over pork in general and the bridge in particular led Congress to strip the earmark out again; though Alaska still got the money, it was allowed to put it to any appropriate use. Sure enough, it did, leaving the financing for the Ketchikan project about $329 million shy of a bridge’s worth, Governor Sarah Palin (also a Republican) said today, adding that she has told the state transportation department to find a “fiscally responsible” alternative for easing access to the airport.
WALL ST JOURNAL - 9/9/2008:
But Gov. Palin's claim comes with a serious caveat. She endorsed the multimillion dollar project during her gubernatorial race in 2006. And while she did take part in stopping the project after it became a national scandal, she did not return the federal money. She just allocated it elsewhere.