Stevens Vehemently Opposed
Amendment to Eliminate Alaska Bridges
"Absolutely Not!! Alaska
Is To Be Treated As Any Other State!" said Stevens
October 21, 2005
(SitNews) Senator Tom Coburn's
(R-Okla.) amendment if it had passed Thursday would have reduced
the federal highway funds that will go to Alaska for the Knik
Arm Bridge in Anchorage, and the Gravina Island Bridge in Ketchikan.
Voting 82-15, senators refused
to shift $75 million from two bridge projects in Alaska to the
rebuilding of the hurricane-destroyed Interstate 10 twin span
near New Orleans. In part, the amendment would have derailed
spending of at least $223 million to connect Ketchikan with an
airport on Gravina Island. Also a target was a $230 million down
payment on the planned Don Young Way near Anchorage, named after
the congressman from Alaska who secured its funding in the House.
The Senate also turned down
a Stevens' counterproposal to hold up spending for all bridges
around the country until the Louisiana bridge is funded, by a
vote of 61-33.
Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska)
went to the Senate floor Thursday to vehemently oppose Senator
Tom Coburn's (R-Okla.) amendment, SA 2165, to the Fiscal Year
2006 Transportation, Treasury, Housing and Urban Development,
Judiciary and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill.
Gravina Island, the
location of the Ketchikan International Airport and the proposed
bridge's destination. "It is the only land really in that
part of the area that can be developed because all the rest of
it is owned by the federal government or set aside, with the
exception of some Native land that is a little bit further away,"
said Stevens Thursday.
Photograph by Chris Wilhelm ©2005
Addressing the Senate, Senator Stevens said, "The Highway
Reauthorization Bill recently passed by Congress was several
years in the making and the result of compromise. Now,
one of our colleagues feels it is his responsibility to rewrite
portions of that bill to achieve his goals, not those that are
expressed in the law itself."
"Unfortunately, the manner in which the Senator wishes to
do this has no impact on his own constituency, or any other constituency
but Alaska," said Stevens.
The Senator said, "I fought for statehood as a member of
the Eisenhower Administration, and I have been here now almost
37 years. This is the first time I have seen any attempt
of any senator to treat my state in a way different than any
"It will not happen. It will not happen," said
Senator Stevens went on to say: "We are a sovereign state.
If the Senate wishes to take part of the highway
money and share it with New Orleans, we will be happy to join
any other state. We will be happy to make a fair contribution
in any other program. We have already notified our state
that many of the things that we have been able to get funding
for in the past may not be available now for a period of time
until we rebuild the area affected by Katrina or Rita."
Senator Stevens then explained to the Senate the need for the
bridges which would have been affected by Senator Coburn's amendment.
Stevens said, "These bridges are necessary - just take the
one across the Knik arm near our largest city of Anchorage. Anchorage
is surrounded by water on two sides and by military reservation
on one side and the National Forest Service on the other. there
is no way to expand. Across this Knik Arm is land that
is owned by the state and private people that we could expand
to. We have been trying to get a bridge across there as
long as I can remember. But because we are a small state
it is hard to do."
"The time came when one of the members of our delegation
was chairman. and he kept pressing and pressing and pressing,
and finally, he convinced his colleagues that the bridge should
be funded in a way that takes a sizable portion of our state's
allocation under formula money and a portion of the money that
is so-called 'above the line money' - the money for grants for
special projects - to make it possible for the Knik Arm Bridge
to be built," said Stevens.
"Now, the other bridge is in the Southeastern area.
In Southeast, the largest forest in the United States is practically
all withdrawn. It is practically all owned by the federal
government and set aside for wilderness areas or non-public uses.
But there is one portion that is available to us, but it takes
a bridge to get to it! That is state land and private
land. It is the only land really in that part of the area
that can be developed because all the rest of it is owned by
the federal government or set aside, with the exception of some
Native land that is a little bit further away," said Stevens
Senator Stevens also disputed the term "bridge to nowhere"
by referencing bridge projects in other states which faced similar
criticism but now are crucial components of their state's infrastructure.
He said, "I remember as a young man in California when someone
suggested that there ought to be a bridge over what we called
the Golden Gate going into the San Francisco Harbor. people
said, "You can't do that. That is a bridge to nowhere!"
I remember those words: "a bridge to nowhere."
A bridge up into Marin County where hardly anyone lived, it was
a place for cows and ranchers. today what is it?
A thriving part of the great State of California."
"Or, how about the bridge from New Orleans to Baton Rouge?
absolutely going into a wilderness, no one ever expected it to
develop Or, how about the bridges that cross island to
island to island down the Keys in Florida? I remember when
I was going overseas going to the edge of that area. You
couldn't travel by road, you had to have a boat like you do in
Alaska. you still have to do that in Alaska. There
are no bridges between Alaska islands. But go to Florida
every one of those bridges was paid for by highway money,"
He also mentioned the Daniel Webster Hoan Bridge in Wisconsin
and the Astoria Bridge in Oregon.
Stevens said, "I think that it was the Memorial Bridge in
Milwaukee that was first called the 'bridge to nowhere.'
It is called the Daniel Webster Hoan Memorial Bridge now, and
it now serves as a major north-south connector between downtown
Milwaukee and the neighborhoods on the near South side of the
"The Astoria Bridge on the Columbia River was also referred
to as 'a bridge to nowhere.' It connects Astoria, Oregon
to what was once an empty shore. This now carries over
6,000 cars per day and over 2 million cars per year. We
deserve the same right to grow!"
Senator Stevens also reiterated his commitment to the Constitution
and the best interests of Alaska.
He said, "I came here
and swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States. I
came here to represent a state that is an equal member of this
Union. Notwithstanding how many people are there, we are
to be treated the same as any other state! This amendment is
an offense to me. it is not only an offense to me; it is
a threat to my whole state, to every person in my state.
We came here to have the same rights, the same privileges that
were made available to any other state and to the people who
lived in those states."
"While we are 1/5 of the United States, we have only 13,
485 miles of roads. That is less than King County, Washington.
Why? Because the Congress in its wisdom withdrew so much
of our land that you can't build roads. Now, Oklahoma is
1/8 the size of Alaska, and it has almost ten times as many roads
These bridges may go nowhere as far as some people here are concerned,
but they are very important to our future," said Stevens.
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