Wednesday, September 10, 2008

“Bridge to Nowhere,

* Stevens championed proposed bridge near Ketchikan that became national symbol of wasteful spending
* Sen. Murkowski’s family would benefit personally from the bridge
* State of Alaska killed bridge

The proposed Gravina Island Bridge, also known as the “Bridge to Nowhere,” became a national symbol of wasteful congressional spending and driver of earmark reform. On Sept. 21, 2007, the State of Alaska officially abandoned the controversial project.

The Gravina Island Bridge initially received $223 million in 2005 via earmarks by Alaska Senators Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski. The bridge would have connected Ketchikan, Alaska with its local airport on nearby Gravina Island (population 50). Congress stripped the earmark after a national uproar about it but appropriated the money anyway for unspecified transportation uses. Former Gov. Frank Murkowski’s administration set aside about $113 million of the appropriation for the Ketchikan bridge. However, Gov. Sarah Palin said the $398 million bridge was $329 million short of full funding, and only $36 million in federal funds were set aside for it. She said it was clear Congress had little interest in spending any more money for it and that the state had higher priorities.

On Oct. 20, 2005, Ted threatened to resign from the Senate if lawmakers took away money allocated for the Gravina Island Bridge and the Knik Arm Bridge and redirected it to Hurricane Katrina repairs in Louisiana. The attempt to redirect the bridge money was defeated, but Congress later removed the earmarks after intense public criticism.

If the bridge were built, the family of Sen. Lisa Murkowski would benefit. Murkowski’s mother Nancy, wife of former Gov. Frank Murkowski, is co-owner with her three siblings of a 35-acre parcel of land on Gravina Island. The plot is valued at $245,000 and is within a mile of the bridge’s western end. While critics charge that the bridge would increase the value of their property, the Murkowski family has taken umbrage at any suggestion of impropriety. Murkowski called her family’s undeveloped Gravina parcel “a worthless piece of property.”

See also: Lisa Murkowski » Don Young’s Way » Earmarks » Kenai River Keystone Drive » The Bridge to Nowhere Gets Nowhere »

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