By Don Hoff Jr.
May 31, 2005
In September 2004, the U.S. Department of Transportation released its decision on the Gravina Access Project, and chose the most expensive alternative as the preferred project.2 The official cost estimate at the time was $230 million. Recently, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) increased the estimate for the project by more than one-third, to $315 million. Annual operating and maintenance costs, much of which would likely be paid for by federal taxpayers, will cost an additional $110,000.3
At $315 million, the Gravina Bridge will cost $23,649 per Ketchikan Gateway Borough resident. In comparison, Boston's Big Dig project-a massive tunneling and highway project and the poster child of government waste-cost less than one-tenth this amount on a per resident basis (see Table 1).
Comparing the Big Dig and Gravina Bridge on a per trip basis also yields striking evidence of how wasteful the Gravina Bridge project really is. Taxpayers will subsidize each trip over Gravina Bridge to the tune of more than $43, compared to about $4 for each Big Dig trip (see Table 2). That means each trip over the Gravina Bridge would cost taxpayers more than ten times as much as a trip through the most wasteful highway project in America's history!
In addition to the millions of dollars that will come from the federal government, state and local sources will be responsible for approximately $63 million, or 20 percent of the project's cost. Ketchikan residents are understandably concerned about how this shift in government priorities will affect the area's already sparse government funding. In the winter of 2002-03 snowplowing on ancillary roads in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough was discontinued due to lack of funding. Residents point out that the area's need to match the $23 million in federal funds that were allocated for the Gravina Bridge in 1997 might be causing state and local governments to cut back on much needed social services and road maintenance priorities. Building more major road projects will further exacerbate the region's inability to carry out necessary infrastructure.
It is my opinion, what is really going on is our politicians that are pushing this bridge project in Ketchikan have spent a lot of our tax money to back out now on design, lobbying and promises made to their consistencies not to mention the conflicts of interest.
There has been good discussion on better ways to spend our tax dollars on a hard link to the lower 48 state, spending money improving existing roads and money for building schools. The cost of a war on Iraq and the National debt, how can we afford a bridge in Ketchikan?
Don Hoff Jr.
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