Our view: Bridge to litigation

More trouble for Knik crossing

July 9, 2011 

Anchorage sues the feds to have them pull the permit for the Knik bridge route because it will interfere with the city's port expansion project.

Boondoggle to boondoggle: "I'll see you in court!"

Both the Knik Arm crossing and the port expansion project have drawn fierce criticism. One difference is that the idea of expanding and improving the port, gateway for most of Alaska's goods, has wide support, even if design decisions and work performance have created a mess.

The bridge, by contrast, like the port a megaproject with a total price tag in the $1 billion neighborhood, has critics who argue that it isn't necessary, relies on traffic and toll projections that are wildly optimistic and is liable to leave the state on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. That may be why a $150 million state appropriation for the bridge didn't make it out of the Legislature this year.

For its part, the city wants the Federal Highway Administration to nix the route it approved in December because it will hobble the expanded port, interfering with its ability to handle shipping.

Mayor Dan Sullivan, who has been a strong supporter of the bridge, said the city is suing to protect its assets. He still backs the bridge.

But the lawsuit points out what has been a chronic problem for crossing supporters -- they haven't taken care of business beyond each end of the bridge, haven't sufficiently accommodated the changes the span imposes, particularly on the Anchorage side.

KABATA (Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority) officials and allies complain of naysayers. But in this case a mayor who has been one of their boosters is suing to stop the project as approved.

That's hardly a recommendation.

Some bridge backers also complain that Alaskans have grown afraid of big projects and have no vision.

Far from it. Alaskans have vision clear enough to see that any project, big or small, needs to make sense, will work in sync with other vital projects, addresses any new problems it creates -- and safeguards the public treasury from open-ended commitments.

The Knik bridge can't complete that checklist. It's an elephant that just gets bigger and whiter.

BOTTOM LINE: City suit is another strike against Knik Arm crossing.

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