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Stevens Vehemently Opposed Amendment to Eliminate Alaska Bridges
"Absolutely Not!! Alaska Is To Be Treated As Any Other State!" said Stevens


October 21, 2005
Friday AM

(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. 

jpg Gravina Island - Ketchikan Bridge

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 other state."
"It will not happen.  It will not happen," said Stevens.
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 Thursday.
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," said Stevens.
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 city. 
"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.


Related News:

Senate Comes to Halt in Battle of Bridges...
Washington Post


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