By Gregory Vickrey
December 20, 2005
Quite contrary to this statement, local, state, national, and international media outlets continue to follow and publish information regarding the bridges and the possible funding of them. Many articles mention the number of projects within the state that will be delayed or deleted completely in the name of the bridges. Data is consistently being reviewed by folks within the state in order to determine how much we will lose in order to gain the 2 bridges. Others debate the merits of the bridges in light of those losses. Those considering include average citizens and groups concerned with where state dollars are spent, many of whom look at the data to determine whether or not to support these costly and enormous projects.
Governor Murkowski states, "We know the truth about the importance of the Knik Arm Crossing and the Gravina Island access projects, which is why I am proposing full state support."
The administration's "truth" is certainly different than the "truth" as understood by citizens throughout the state and country. As stated above, numerous folks are concerned about what we lose in pursuit of the bridges. Are safety improvements to the state's highways being cut back? Are scheduled repairs to roads like Tongass Avenue being delayed or stricken completely from current funding cycles? Are we going to lose the Gateway Shuttle to Prince Rupert and its economic benefits? What further improvements and enhancements to both AMHS and the road system could be added with the additional federal dollars coming to Alaska? Do these possible benefits outweigh two bridge projects?
Governor Murkowski states, "Quite simply, Anchorage and Ketchikan are out of room and these projects are critical for their future growth. They serve as important shipping and regional hub communities and these two bridge projects are critical to the economic health of their respective residents."
Let's speak about your Ketchikan example, Mr. Governor. Is Ketchikan truly out of room, or has development on Revilla been so haphazard and inefficient that it appears there is no room for expansion and redevelopment? One can simply drive the length of Tongass Highway north to south and see the potential remaining on this side of the Narrows. Numerous properties along such a drive ooze with possibility for redevelopment or refurbishment in the name of economic diversity and such a baseline approach could certainly establish provisions that enable the presence sustainable, year-round, high wage jobs. "Quite simply", perhaps if we were focused on creating a strategic plan for redevelopment on this side of the Narrows, any transportation dollars or other state funds would allow us the opportunity to enhance our community through a methodology that is sound and benefits all.
Governor Murkowski states, "I am asking all Alaskans to speak out the next time special interest groups are quoted as labeling these projects a 'Bridge to Nowhere'."
Again, Mr. Governor, countless
Alaskans have concerns about the true economic viability of these
projects, so asking all Alaskans to speak out in blind support
of them is folly. Taking the pulse of Ketchikan alone indicates
the controversial nature of these bridges, as many of us have
no interest in losing the Gateway Shuttle and its economic benefits;
funding for the Saxman ferry terminal; Tongass Avenue improvements;
and a replacement ferry for travel in Southeast in the name of
large bridges that may or may not have the impacts to which some
whimsically attach their hopes. Will these local projects remain
without delay and alteration? We are skeptical. And it goes without
saying that a good share of the state legislature will likely
not be pleased about losing funds for critical improvements slated
for Fairbanks, safety modifications for the Seward Highway, and
other common sense projects that should be the priority of this
and, indeed, any administration. Finally, Alaska!
Governor Murkowski states, "They don't know the issue."
While it is clear some national media struggle with the notion of accuracy with Ketchikan's population number, it is quite an insult to state that we Alaskans who take the time to consider the question of bridge funding and research it to the best of our plebian abilities "don't know the issue". Most of us realize the importance of understanding, and fervently listening to, all sides of any issue, including this one. It is our hope that the administration would do the same. Rather than taking the predicted approach of funding without fail, what many of us would like to see is careful and public consideration on the part of the administration of the numerous possibilities provided by the additional federal funding, not bridge or bust philosophies perpetuated by local and state government entities. Indeed, is that not, in part, why we have a governor? To consider carefully all sides of every issue important to Alaskans? This is where your administration currently fails us.
Fundamentally, I believe it is your responsibility as governor to comprehend why many of your constituents question the economics of these two bridges, and to pursue that knowledge on behalf of the administration in a public forum. Perhaps if your administration took the lead in understanding your responsibility to all residents of this great state, local entities such as the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly would likewise develop the insight to serve the community at large.
About: Gregory Vickrey is the director of the Tongass Conservation Society, but is responding as a resident and voter of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough.
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.