Bridge to Nowhere

Downtown Ketchikan, Alaska: Future home of the $223 million Bridge To Nowhere! "Alaska Republican Don Young (R-Pure Evil), overlord of the GOP transportation committee, who insists that no, the money would not be better spent helping Hurricane Katrina victims."

"Yet due to funds in a new transportation bill, which President Bush is scheduled to sign Wednesday, Sallee and his neighbors may soon receive a bridge nearly as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and 80 feet taller than the Brooklyn Bridge. With a $223 million check from the federal government, the bridge will connect Gravina [population less than 50] to the bustling Alaskan metropolis of Ketchikan, pop. 8,000.

Included in the bill's special Alaska projects is $231 million for a bridge that will connect Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, a rural area that has exactly one resident, north of the town of Knik, pop. 22. The land is a network of swamps between a few hummocks of dry ground."

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33 Responses:

  1. pavel_lishin says:

    The bridge better be named after that one guy.

  2. c0nsumer says:

    Guh. That is where it's going? I lived in Ketchikan for a while back in 1996, and between then and 2003 when I went back, the place hadn't changed a bit. I can't help but think he's trying to make up for the Ketchikan Pulp Company mill (owned by Louisana Pacific) which closed in late 1996 / early 1997.

    If you want to compare / contrast yourself, here's photos from the two separate time periods: 1996 - 2003

    That said, Mr. Harris is wrong. That photo there isn't the downtown. (See the first page of the aforementioned 2003 photo link for photos of part of the downtown.) That photo up above is Creek Street, the main touristy / gift shop area in town. About a mile west of there is the actual downtown, containing the court house and a number of other government buildings. That doesn't make the bridge it any less of a waste, though.

    The bridge will make it easier to get things to and from commercial aircraft (the airport is currently only reachable from Ketchikan by ferry), but I'd think any arguments about additional places to live are moot. There's an arseload of land available off of an already existing main road just north of town.

  3. dmlaenker says:

    I didn't realize that the bridge connected Ketchikan to the airport. I'm actually more positively disposed to the project after seeing the picture.

    (And no, that actually isn't saying much. A fraction is greater than zero.)

    • c0nsumer says:

      I'm still surprised it's Ketchikan. If any place needs a bridge, it's Juneau and some sort of mainland link. Hell, the ferry ride doesn't even take very long, and I've never had to wait for it. It was always as simple as hopping on the next one to leave and going. I also believe there was a special cargo ferry for handling trucks and larger packages.

    • merovingian says:

      According to articles I've been reading on this, the bridge is actually kind of out of the way - it's not any faster than the ferry.

  4. merovingian says:

    How I wish, sometimes, that I lived in a democracy.

    • fo0bar says:

      Write your congressman! Tell him to vote for implementing democracy!

    • mark242 says:

      The problem isn't democracy-- this asshole probably got voted in by promising the bridge ("It will bring jobs! It will generate money for you! Free Porsches for all!"). The problem is that there's no real oversight in place to do away with this kind of crap. Young may or may not get voted out after this, but it's too late, the damage has been done, and depending on the whims of the Alaskan voters, he may actually get rewarded for his greed.

      On NPR the other day, someone (I forget who) had the novel idea of running government spending more like a business. You have a set capital budget for projects each year, based upon last year's tax revenue. Everyone submits their pork-barrel crap like this, and then an oversight committee determines what is needed the most that year, on a line-by-line review basis, and sets an overall order of projects. That way, shit like this never gets snuck onto more important bills. When an emergency like a natural disaster, etc, pops up, it gets to the head of the queue immediately.

      • king_mob says:

        So the oversight committee gets a junket to Ketchikan and they approve this line item. What's that improve?

        I'm always astonished by the people who want government to run like a business. Haven't they ever had a stupid boss?

        • mark242 says:

          As I recall, the NPR commentator's idea was for projects to act as a queue, not just as a yes/no line item, to help combat any sort of gaming by big lobbyists. I agree that you'll never see a complete cessation of government payola, but the system we have now is clearly broken, and arguably couldn't get any worse.

          • Or, to put it another way:

            So the oversight committee gets a junket to Ketchikan and they move the project up in the queue. What's that improve?

            The queue of my stuff to work at my job is planned out to about 6 months, but it changes all the time due to the myriad shifting pressures involved. That's business.

          • king_mob says:

            ...but the system we have now is clearly broken, and arguably couldn't get any worse.

            Oh, man. I promise you it can, okay? It just can.

      • simmonmt says:

        That seems fine, but for the fact that someone will need to be in charge of the oversight committee. And by "in charge of" I mean "set the rules for". If the people who set the rules are the same ones who are in the queue, then you really haven't solved anything.

  5. Given recent statements by Alaska's Governor, the irony, hypocrisy, corruption and chutzpah is almost too much to bear.

  6. Why don't we just send the money raised by the gas tax back to the states, then the states can decide what needs to be built and maintained.

    As it stands now, this bridge is similar to getting a Xmas present from the federal government. That asshole senator has every incentive to bring home as much pork as possible, damn the consequences. However, if the federal gov just cut his state a check every year, you can bet that there would be accountability for his decisions. No more bridges to nowhere.

    If a state's senators think that their home state needs additional money, then they ought to have to make their argument in congress and fight for an appropriation. It would be a whole lot easier to veto a bill that is exclusively pork than one that also includes important highway maintenance funding.

  7. carbonunit says:

    Are there some oilfields north of this bridge? Is that the reason for it?

    • king_mob says:

      The closest I can think of for a "reason" for it is that this is a huge stop for cruise ships; there's an enormous tourist district there. I was there last August as a cruise stop. But I don't even see how the bridge helps the cruise companies, many of which aren't American owned and can't lobby for this anyway.

  8. snitrocket says:

    This just proves that Republicans believe that Every Vote Counts. Even if they cost $221M each.

  9. baconmonkey says:

    Included in the bill's special Alaska projects is $231 million for a bridge that will connect Anchorage to Port MacKenzie, a rural area that has exactly one resident, north of the town of Knik, pop. 22. The land is a network of swamps between a few hummocks of dry ground. Although it may or may not set the stage for future development, the bridge, to be named "Don Young's Way," will not save commuters into Anchorage any time, says Walt Parker, a former Alaska commissioner of highways.

    Thouogh perhaps there is some fitting truth to the fact that Don Young's Way is pointless, wasteful, and leads nowhere.

  10. ivan_ghandhi says:

    Ketchikan is just a native village in the south of Alaska. But... it may turn out that the military need it for some obscure purpose, but they are not telling.

  11. kallisti says:

    The Bridge to Nowhere
    Stony Brook University, Long Island

    In about 1967 the Bridge to Nowhere was built. It was supposed to connect the Library and the Student Union but it turned out that when the addition to the Library was built, the plans had been reversed 180 degrees. Consequently, the bridge would have connected in between floors [didn't]. For many years it just stopped and went nowhere. It became a symbol of the things that had gone wrong at Stony Brook. At some point, to get away from that negative image, the Bridge was extended to connect to Staller and around the Library to the Plaza. But years and years of neglect left it in such a state of disrepair it made more sense to tear it down than try to fix it. So another part of Stony Brook history - like the changing logos - is now just a memory.

  12. lars_larsen says:

    How do republicans get away with claiming they're fiscally conservative, yet run up huge budget deficits, and increase spending? Not only increase it, but spend it on COMPLETE BULLSHIT.

  13. violentbloom says:

    Weird I used to live in bozeman, montana...
    A downtown parking garage isn't really a huge sacrifice (ie you might have to park a whole BLOCK away!), still I wouldn't have expected them to be so nice.

  14. naturalborn says:

    I wonder if the citizens of Gravina could be bribed to leave town to the tune of $4 million each.

  15. simmonmt says:

    Here's a list (presumably partial) of pork in the recent transportation bill.

  16. myoldself says:

    To be fair, there're actually a whole lot of people living on the area where the Knik Arm bridge would end up. The fact that it'd cut the commute distance by forty miles or so doesn't hurt either. That said, they're basically proposing the Golden Gate Bridge when the San Mateo Bridge would suffice.

    Don't forget our recent $1,500,000 grant to upgrade a single bus stop. They promised to make the best bus stop ever, sure, but still...