Thursday, August 14, 2008

«The Bridge to Nowhere»

I said earlier in my Gravina Island image post that I'd talk about the Gravina Island access bridge.

I'm sure some of you have heard about the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere" proposed to be built in Ketchikan, Alaska. Nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. It made national, even global news. It was called a prime example of run-away pork-barrel spending on pet projects. The project was shut down after an outcry from the mis-informed public. They ridiculed it as being a "bridge from mainland Alaska to an island with a population of 50". That statement alone shows they are completely ignorant of the issue.

Let me (being a local resident of Ketchikan) correct a few facts for the "Bridge to Nowhere".

Technically, it would be 2 bridges, using Pennock Island as a stepping stone. The bridge does not have anything to do with mainland Alaska, I don't know where that even came from. It has nothing to do with the 50 residents of Gravina Island, and everything to do with the airport that's located on that island. It's to connect the 14,000 people of Revillagigedo Island (8,000 within the city limits of Ketchikan, but 14,000 in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough) to the Ketchikan International Airport, located on Gravina Island. Ketchikan is the only city in Alaska without road access to its airport, and the federal government promised 30 years ago that we'd get a bridge.

Both Pennock Island and Gravina Island would have been opened up for development and recreation. There's a significant amount of flat land over there (a rare commodity in Ketchikan, nearly the entire town is built on the side of a mountain). Had the bridge been built, the "Bridge to Nowhere" would become a bridge to somewhere pretty quick due to development and expansion.

Ketchikan has a thriving tourism industry. Setting aside for the moment an impressive bridge would attract more tourists, around 850,000 people already come and go by cruise ship each year. The bridge must be tall enough for cruise ships to pass under; hence, why it has to be so tall.

A significant number of people come and go through the Ketchikan International Airport as well. In total for the year 2007, there were 222,249 passengers that used the airport. 406,664 people and 107,609 vehicles used the current airport ferry system in place to get to and from the airport (source). It's that near half million in traffic volume per year the bridge would have been built for. Instead, we have to pay ferry tolls to get there. $5.00 per person (round-trip if in the same day), and $6.00 per car (one way, not including driver or passengers). No-one else has to pay to get to their airport. Also, a bridge would make it faster and easier for emergency vehicles to get to the airport, if something were to happen.

So what happened instead? The State of Alaska still got the federal funds, but with the earmarks for the bridge removed. So our governor, Sarah Palin, vetoed the bridge. However, they forgot to remove the earmarks for the $25 million road over on Gravina Island that was to connect to the bridge. The road is under construction now. It's a true "Road to Nowhere", complete with a tunnel under the runway (as you can see in the pictures I took). All we're going to get is a useless dead-end road and a new ferry. The least they could have did is subsidize the cost of the ferry so we wouldn't have to pay to access our own airport.

The rest of the funding got siphoned off to other projects for Anchorage; it didn't even stay in Southeast Alaska. Meanwhile, our roads are quickly deteriorating and Sarah Palin vetoed the money that's needed to fix them. She really has it out for Southeast Alaska for some reason. But that's going off on a tangent with a different issue.


  1. Would you support an increase in the state and/or federal gas tax to pay for the deteriorating roads and bridges?

  2. @ fght234: The state of Alaska had a $9 billion surplus this last fiscal year. I don't think an increase in taxes would be necessary.

    In fact, as far as fuel taxes go, Alaska is planning a one-time refund of $1,200 to each resident of Alaska. They plan to add it to the Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend this year. The Dividend is expected to be over $2,000 on its own, so we may get over $3,200 this time around.

    No, I wouldn't support an increase in taxes. But I would support diverting a small fraction (that's all that would be needed) of the surplus down to the Southeast of the state so that the roads can be fixed.

  3. That's funny. They are building a road w/ absolutely no intention ((in the near future)) of it going ANYWHERE? L... Ok

  4. @ Monique: The intention was to have it connect to the bridge. They contracted the work for the road, then the bridge was vetoed. But because of the earmarks on the funds for the road, and the contract, they have to complete the road.

  5. Thanks Master Marf for giving us the REAL story behind the Bridge to Nowhere we all heard about from Governer Palin during this political season. This is very informative.

    Roy "Wa the Great"

  6. @ Wa the Great: No problem, and thinks for reading.


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