Gravina Highway Say Conservation Groups
By M.C. Kauffman
April 12, 2007
Gregory Vickrey of the Tongass Conservation Society in Ketchikan said that the Gravina road contract, signed by the Murkowski Administration before leaving office, is currently funded by an earmark similar to funds set aside originally for the Gravina Bridge, known domestically and internationally as the "Bridge to Nowhere". Under intense scrutiny in the media and in Congress, the Gravina Bridge earmark was removed and the money was made available to the state for broader transportation uses said Vickrey.
However, U.S. Senator Ted Stevens disagrees that the original intent was to fund the Ketchikan and Anchorage bridge projects through earmarks. During a March 13, 2007 press conference, Stevens said that he faults the Alaska news media at the home front for not being willing to carry the story about the Ketchikan and Anchorage bridge projects.
Stevens said, "The bridges were two of 282 bridges in the highway bill passed by the House. They were not earmarks." Stevens further explained that when the bill came to the U.S. Senate, Senator Colburn offered an amendment to delete the funding for the last two bridges -- the two bridges for Alaska. Stevens said, "Even in Alaska, these bridges are referred to as being earmarks which they never were. I don't know what to do about this because it's hurting us [Alaska]."
Stevens said somehow Alaska became the target of the earmark crowd who believe these two bridges to be the greatest problem involved with earmarks. The Senator said, "Those two bridges came to the top of the priorities list after waiting for almost thirty years for the approval of the bridges."
The poll, conducted by Hays Research Group a public opinion research firm located in Anchorage, found that 71% of Alaskans are opposed to construction of the Gravina Access Highway under current conditions. This survey was conducted across the State of Alaska including Ketchikan on April 4th-5th 2007. 406 respondents were contacted by telephone for the survey according to information provided by the Hays Research Group website. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 4.9% with a 95% confidence interval.
Of the 406 responding to building the Gravina Highway now without funding in place for the bridge, 76 were in support, 287 opposed and 43 didn't know or refused to participate in the poll.
The poll asked the following question: "Although there is no dedicated source of funding for the Gravina Bridge (in Ketchikan), the State is currently moving ahead with the Gravina Access Highway - a 3.2 mile road that will connect the bridge to the airport. The contract for this road is 25.7 million dollars. Do you support spending approximately 8 million dollars per mile to build the Gravina Access Highway now (before funding is secured for the bridge project)?"
Gregory Vickrey of the Tongass Conservation Society stated, "From this poll, it is clear the majority of Alaskans and folks in Ketchikan are opposed to spending money for this sort of road when there are no dedicated bridge funds. Without a bridge this is a road to nowhere, and at $8 million per mile, the cost is too high."
Vickrey said, "It is high time Alaska DOT and the Governor reconsider options for Gravina, and citizen opposition to the current contract indicates that rethinking the project is a good place to start."
Lois Epstein of the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project said, "Governor Palin has made it a priority to curtail the unwise financial decisions of the previous administration, as demonstrated by her cancellation of several Juneau Road contracts. The Governor can further clean house and reprioritize by canceling the contract for the Murkowski-era Gravina Highway and returning the money to federal taxpayers. It's clear that a large majority of the state wants her to do this. "
According to the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project's (ATPP) website, the Gravina Access Bridge project is a bad idea. This organization supports a properly maintained ferry system between Ketchikan and the airport on Gravina Island to serve the community. They also say land development opportunities exist on Ketchikan's home island, Revillagigedo, so new development on Gravina is unnecessary.
Publish A Letter on SitNews Read Letters/Opinions