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Public Comments Accepted Through Friday on Proposed “STIP” Amendment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2016

Anchorage – Representatives Les Gara (D-Anchorage) and Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage) encourage the public to comment on the need to stop wasteful spending on the proposed Knik Arm Crossing project. The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is accepting public comments until Friday, August 19th on whether the roughly $2 billion bridge project should be removed from the current state transportation priority list.

“It’s time to speak up. We can’t afford this $2 billion wish-list project with a $3.2 billion deficit and school funding that’s $30 million lower than just two years ago. In tight times, we should fund needs for seniors, children, and schools before we fund multi-billion dollar wishes we cannot afford,” said Rep. Les Gara, who has voted against this unaffordable megaproject since its inception. “There will likely be significant opposition to this proposed amendment from developers who would benefit from the wasteful state spending, those who own property on the Mat-Su side of the proposed bridge, and other bridge spending supporters.”

“This massive project comes with an enormous cost that we just can’t afford while battling a huge budget deficit,” said Rep. Harriet Drummond (D-Anchorage). “This project has never been a priority for the people of Alaska and it is high time it was removed from the priority list.”

Documents show the bridge and upgraded connecting roads would result in a longer commute time to both Palmer and Wasilla.

Rep. Drummond and Rep. Gara encourage the public to comment before Friday’s deadline because the proposed bridge is unaffordable and because the state cannot move forward with the project without diverting scarce state funds from more important things like schools, senior services, and public safety.  Public comments on the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, which sets state transportation spending priorities, and on a proposed amendment to remove the Knik Arm Crossing project from the transportation spending plan, are due by Friday. Comments can be emailed to dot.stip@alaska.gov.

“Alaska simply can’t afford to spend billions on a bridge that nobody will use,” said Knik Arm Crossing opponent and engineer Bob French, who lives in the Government Hill neighborhood. “Governor Walker did the right thing in canceling new expenditures. Now it is time to take the $263 million still set aside for the bridge and use it on projects that will actually benefit our state and put Alaskans to work.”

The Knik Arm Crossing project and all the connecting roads and infrastructure is projected to cost roughly $2 billion without including likely cost overruns. Legislation passed by the Alaska Legislature, over the objection of Rep. Gara and other Democrats, promised the project would be made contingent upon the receipt of a $300 million federal loan. That loan was denied earlier this year. 

The Knik Arm Crossing project is considered a megaproject because it will include the bridge across Cook Inlet, a tunnel through the Government Hill neighborhood, numerous connecting roads, and infrastructure on both the Anchorage and Mat-Su Borough sides of the bridge. Roughly five to eight years after construction, the project envisions a second bridge and road approach in Anchorage from Ingra and Gambell Streets to the Government Hill tunnel (because the initial approach on A and C Streets will only be able to handle minor bridge traffic). 

In 2013, an audit by the Alaska Division of Legislative Audit concluded that promoters likely overstated the number of people who would use the bridge and pay a toll. Rep. Gara notes that the Glenn Highway is already slated for improvements and upgrades, which he believes would be a better use of limited state funds. 

“I want an Alaska with good schools and I don’t want to have to fight attempts to cut senior services every year. Last year, Democrats had to fight to reverse cuts to those with disabilities,” said Rep. Gara. “This project will just produce a giant sucking sound from the state’s already dwindling savings.”

Legislation passed in 2014 only covers roughly half the project’s cost, and was contingent on a federal loan application for $300 million that has been denied. 

“When that bill was passed no one explained where the missing $800 million would come from. It’s time to spend sanely and to put public safety, education, and job opportunities ahead of unaffordable dream projects,” said Rep. Drummond.

For more information, please contact Alaska Independent Democratic Coalition Press Secretary Mike Mason at (907) 444-0889.

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