to Develop Needed Projects Statewide
August 26, 2005
"Our Congressional delegation has shown the foresight to include provisions within this bill to authorize the construction of a number of important, forward-looking projects that will literally change the lives of Alaskans," said DOT Commissioner Mike Barton. "These projects, such as the Knik Arm bridge, the Gravina and Juneau Access projects, Denali Commission roads and docks, and many others, will build 'once-in-a-lifetime' pieces of our transportation infrastructure. We are fortunate to have been given the green light by Congress, and to have a governor who is a strong advocate for transportation infrastructure."
Approximately $1 billion of the $2.5 billion Alaska is to receive under the bill over the next five years is earmarked for specific projects. The bill includes significant earmarks for the Denali Commission, the Alaska Marine Highway System, the Port of Anchorage, Alaska Ship and Drydock in Ketchikan, and the University of Alaska.
The bill also contains numerous other earmarks that would build much-needed projects throughout the state, whether a float plane access road in Aleknagik, intermodal facilities in Anchorage, or upgrading the Dalton Highway.
While earmarks have received considerable attention and public scrutiny since the bill was passed, it also contains $1.5 billion over its 5-year life for Alaska's regular program funding. This will pay for projects all across the state, identified and prioritized through the department's regular programs, including congestion relief, reconstruction and resurfacing of highways, safety improvements, and bridge repairs and upgrades. It funds the basic DOT effort, referred to as the STIP, or Statewide Transportation Improvement Program.
"Funding for our transportation programs receives a boost in the bill," Barton said. "In addition, many of the earmarks are projects Alaskans have wanted for many years. These projects provide real connectivity for Alaskan communities that will serve us all well into the future."
"The process of getting this bill to the President's desk was a long and difficult one," Barton said. "It took a lot of push from our delegation. Our earmarks received, and continue to receive, critical comments in Alaska and from other states. However, it is important to keep in mind that Alaska's transportation infrastructure is still early in its development. Alaska is 20 percent of the land mass of the entire rest of the country, yet we have fewer miles of road in our state than there are in Fairfax County, Virginia. While I would never want to see Alaska as overdeveloped as the Eastern states, we do have a need for connections like the Knik Arm crossing. This bill will do much to further the development of our infrastructure."
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