Bridges to Nowhere Update

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Yes, they’re still pending, and still may cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions to build. However, the two Alaska transportation projects that achieved a sort of iconic status among earmarked congressional pork–the Gravina Bridge and the Knik Arm bridge–might be done in by incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski’s loss to Sarah Palin in the gubernatorial primary last Tuesday.

Emily Ferry of the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project emailed me a press release from her organization, that notes,

During his tenure Governor Murkowski pushed a series of unpopular proposals, including cutting the Longevity Bonus, a cash payment to seniors, leasing a state jet, and pushing controversial new roads and bridges.

The election results guarantee Alaska will have a new Governor in January.

The fate of the infamous Bridges to Nowhere and other costly new road projects could shift when Murkowski leaves office.

Sarah Palin has raised questions about the State’s ability to fund the infamous Bridges to Nowhere along with other mega-projects like the Juneau Road extension while also address outstanding maintenance needs on our existing roadways.

In contrast, Palin’s opponents endorsed the controversial mega-projects.

Interestingly, Democratic candidate Tony Knowles offers some support for the Gravina Bridge. Salon, in a memorable article, described it that project this way: “Alaska’s Gravina Island (population less than 50) will soon be connected to the megalopolis of Ketchikan (pop. 8,000) by a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate and higher than the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Knowles says,

The Gravina Island access bridge has been a community priority for 30 years. The EIS and Preferred Record of Decision were completed during my prior tenure as governor. The federal and state funding appropriated to the project now totals about $130 million out of an estimated construction cost of $315 million. Annual maintenance costs are projected at $360,000. We need to identify the source of the additional revenues required to build and maintain the bridge. Then the public needs to weigh in to demonstrate its continued support of the bridge or its preference for other transportation projects in order to determine the timetable for construction.

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