August 20

Bringing home the bacon II

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A few weeks ago I posted about Dandy Don Young, the sole US Representative from Alaska, bringing home the pork-barrel bacon in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars for roads and bridges (the main bridge to named after the Congressman) in his state.
Not only is this pork-barrel boondoggle a rip-off for the taxpayers in the rest of the country, the people of Alaska are not all that crazy about it.
Heather Linde, an Alaska resident and columnist for the Anchorage Daily News writes about the quarter of a billion dollars going to build a bridge rivaling the Golden Gate Bridge in length and height that will connect Ketchikan (population 14,000) to a small island nearby and the eponymous bridge across a swamp. Then she turns to the funding for the roadway that is

dearest to [her]. Haines, the small town I live in, is close to Skagway – separated from it only by the waters of the upper Lynn Canal, which is not a canal at all, but the longest fjord in North America. The transportation money will go toward the first road ever to be built along the canal. Actually, the project will cost about $300 million to complete, but Gov. Frank Murkowski assures Alaskans that he’ll get whatever he needs from the federal government [translated: you and me].

The communities directly affected – Haines (population 2,400), Skagway (population 870) and Juneau (population 31,000) – have voiced opposition to the road for a host of good reasons: it is a waste of money; with at least two dozen avalanche chutes, it will be too dangerous to drive in winter, which is most of the year; we already have a fine ferry system that gets us just about everywhere we need to go in all kinds of weather; some places are too nice to be paved over.

Oh, and did I mention that the road won’t fulfill its ostensible mission? The whole purpose of the new road was to connect Juneau to the Klondike Highway at Skagway, so that Alaskans who live in the interior would be able to drive to the state capital rather than rely on planes and ferries. But now the road is going to stop in the middle of the wilderness, 18 miles south of Skagway. Earlier this month, the Federal Highway Administration announced it would not finance a road that went through Skagway’s Gold Rush-era park, a national landmark. The result? We’re on course to get a $300 million road to nowhere.

Figures.
If I had a say in it, Dandy Don would be on his own way to nowhere, but, unfortunately, I suspect he’ll be on his way back to the US House of Representatives with both palms outstretched.


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