Bridge to Nowhere Update
By Alexa Moutevelis
Wastewatcher, November 2006
Even though the Bridge to Nowhere has gone nowhere fast since Congress stripped it of its federal earmark, outgoing Governor Frank Murkowski (R-Alaska) is still trying to keep the project alive.
According to the Associated Press, the lame duck governor hopes to award a $30 million contract for roadwork leading to the proposed bridge by December 1st – three days before he leaves office. Incoming Republican Governor-elect Sarah Paulin supports construction of the bridge but has not commented on the current governor’s actions nor explained how she plans to cover the cost.
The Bridge to Nowhere became a symbol of congressional excess and the poster child for earmark reform when it was added to last year’s pork-stuffed transportation bill. Congress originally designated $229 million for the Gravina Island Bridge, connecting Gravina Island (pop. 50) to the town of Ketchikan. But bridge opponents argued that Gravina Island is adequately served by a ferry and funding the bridge would take away from more urgent transportation priorities. After public outcry and a bizarre series of events that included Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) losing his temper on the Senate floor, Congress removed the earmark instructions and allowed state authorities to spend the money as they saw fit, leaving much of the bridge unfunded.
In a last desperate attempt to salvage this project, Gov. Murkowski is rushing the Alaska Department of Transportation to find a contractor to begin the “Bridge to Nowhere” project before his term runs out.
With only $30 million slated for the project, it faces an uphill battle to secure adequate funding. The state had the opportunity to use its share of transportation funds for the bridge, but chose to divert the money to other, more pressing projects. The state legislature did not include the measure in the capital budget. Even with the negative publicity and public sentiment, the governor forges on.
CAGW named Gov. Murkowski Porker of the Month in January 2006 for supporting the “Bridge to Nowhere” and questioned whether his real motivation is the potential for increased value of Gravina Island property owned by his wife. Gov. Murkowski also proposed a taxpayer-funded public relations campaign to try to repair the damage that the bridges helped inflict on Alaska’s national reputation and to counter the all too realistic perception that Alaska politicians milk federal taxpayers.
Defeat at the ballot box should have taught Frank Murkowski that pork doesn’t pay; securing the bridge as one of his final acts in office would cement his legacy of fiscal irresponsibility. After losing on its merits on the national and local stage, the “Bridge to Nowhere” deserves to go nowhere.