in Alaska Say Sen. Murkowski
March 06, 2004
Murkowski in a spirited letter to the Washington Post took exception to a letter from Taxpayers for Common Sense that earlier this week attacked her plan to authorize Alaska's Denali Commission to begin building transportation projects in rural areas. The Senator last month in the Senate version of its Highway Reauthorization bill won $30 million extra a year - $180 million over the next six years - to fund transportation work in rural areas of Alaska (S. 1072).
Murkowski was responding to a letter from the think tank that argued that the $180 million going to Alaska "to connect sparsely populated communities," was a waste since "many of these roads will be duplicative because these communities are already connected by an extensive ferry system."
"Obviously the writer has never tried to get to any of Alaska's nearly 200 rural villages that aren't connected by roads and are located no where near water. Right now, as Congress debates 'intelligent transportation systems' and considers upgrades to a sophisticated Interstate highway system already almost 50 years old, Alaska still has more than 200 communities that cannot be reached by even a dirt road, or - despite the 'taxpayers' assertion - by ferry.
"We are one-fifth the size of the Lower 48 States combined, yet - we have fewer road miles than the island of Puerto Rico. It's true we have twice the road miles of Rhode Island - the smallest of all States - but we are 540 times larger.
"The bottom line is this: This is the 21st Century and Alaska is still trying to get our transportation infrastructure into the 20th. Alaska's rural mothers - among the nation's poorest - should not be be forced further into poverty by paying nearly $5 for a gallon of fresh milk because it can only be delivered by airplane," said Senator Murkowski in her reply to the East Coast newspaper.
Noting that Alaska has only 13,628 miles of centerline roads in the entire state, Murkowski pointed out that the Denali Transportation proposal supported by Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Ted Stevens, was patterned after the Appalachian Commission, which since 1964 has been receiving extra federal funding yearly to upgrade roads to end that region's "geographical isolation," which Congress has called the reason for Appalachia's economic "developmental lag."
The Appalachia Commission is slated to receive about $590 million a year extra for road work under the terms of the Senate's $318 billion, six-year highway bill, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible and Efficient Transportation Equity Act of 2003 (SAFETEA) that is now pending House review. Other Southeast states also are proposed to receive additional funds to meet transportation gaps in the pending bill.
As of Friday, there was no word whether the Washington Post would print the Senator's reply.
Transcript of letter to Washington Post, March 2, 2004 from Erich W. Zimmermann, research analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, Washington.
The following is the reply letter to the Washington Post from Senator Murkowski sent Friday.
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