By David Rettke
August 08, 2005
I have been keeping up on the 'Bridge to Gravina' saga for some time now. I see that the money has been allotted by the feds, and waits on the State to put in its amount. How much will this bridge cost us Ketchikan?
It is already spiraling out of sight due to fuel costs. Then, when one takes in the maintenance and repair bridges take, there will be an ongoing cost there. Who is going to bear those costs? I also have seen several comments on how nice it will be to be able to drive to Pennock. Sorry there folks, but all the plans I've seen for the bridge that involve Pennock show no, I repeat NO off-ramp. They all show an elevated roadway across Pennock.
Then there is the argument that the land will be developed on Gravina and thus bring in tax dollars. First, those tax dollars won't even begin to pay the maintenance costs on the bridge let alone bring in monies to be used in other ways and forms by the borough. Secondly, we have always had access by vehicle to Gravina via the airport ferry system, yet I still see no development going on in the form of road building. How long has the ferry been there? Since the seventies? Where are the roads and development there now?
Now, should the roads be developed and the bridge built, just who really believes that we, citizens of Ketchikan, will benefit from more roads to travel on and more land access opened up? Over here there are miles of roads that are blocked off either by the Forest Service or other entities that effectively lock us out of public use lands. What makes anyone think it will be at all different over on Gravina? You might, and that's a big might, get one campground or park over there, what ever other land is there will be tied up by private partnerships that are busily developing the land for people that won't, more likely than not, even live here most of the time.
In the end, there is not now, nor has there ever been, a need for a bridge to Gravina. The Ferry system always had what roadway access was needed covered, and had it been developed as envisioned, there would already be roads all over and property being developed without a multi-million dollar boon doggle being forced on us.
Then, there is the scenic and natural beauty that is the Narrows that will forever be gone. Replaced by a concrete and steel towering roadway hopping over Pennock and landing on Gravina. Float plane traffic will have to be re-routed to accommodate the bridge, and of course the ever precious tourists that the borough bigwigs are always kowtowing to will get to be greeted by the large eyesore that will be the 'bridge', knowing that their tax dollars helped to create it.
I'm sure that that bridge will look sooooo beautiful in their pictures of their vacations too. I'm sure that K-town will remain at the top of the list of great places to visit in Alaska, right along with the jewelry stores that close in the off-season, and the empty 'cruise ship' docks too. By the way, what are the maintenance costs of the present dock downtown I wonder? Is the cruise ship industry picking up that tab too?
In the end, it will cost the Federal Government far more than the 148 million dollars already set-aside for it. The benefits are more than a lot cloudy rather than clear. The continuing costs of upkeep are unknown at this point or at least to the general public they are unknown. And finally, there will still only be two ways in and out of Ketchikan - by plane or by ferry.
I suppose a bridge to the mainland wouldn't make much profit for many around here huh? A road to the Alcan Highway and a third way in and out of K-town. That wouldn't encourage tourists in Winnebago's to show up would it? Encourage more businesses to start to cover the gas and motels and misc. things that traveling tourists in cars and motor homes would need? Guess not. Guess those tourist dollars are not like the dollars off the cruise ships are they?
In the end, I would at least ask each citizen of this community to ask themselves what they will benefit from the bridge to Gravina and not elsewhere? How will that bridge affect you in the future? Do you have need for floatplanes at all? Do you think that congestion and lack of space to expand will kill some floatplane businesses? Can you afford the tax bill via property or sales taxes to pay for the upkeep of the monumental bridge which I'm sure will be named in honor of Ted Stevens or Don Young - maybe even our illustrious Governor Mr. Murkowski.
I would ask that each of you not only think about these questions but speak out in one format or another. Let the people know your thoughts. I for one, a Ketchikan resident since 1987, am standing on the 'we don't need it and I don't want it' platform. It will be a waste of hard earned taxpayer money, and only cause us more problems down the road than it is worth.
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