'Bridge to nowhere' given thumbs up in Alaska

| Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Alaska Legislature has approved a $2.6 billion spending bill that includes allocating money for what has been dubbed the “bridge to nowhere.”

House and Senate lawmakers signed off on the bill three days before the regular legislative session ended this month. It now heads to Gov. Frank Murkowski’s desk for his signature.

The bridge authority bill – HB471 – authorizes the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority to set tolls and enter into public-private partnerships to build, maintain and operate a proposed bridge to link Ketchikan on the Alaskan mainland to the tiny island of Gravina. Gravina Island has a population of about 50.

The Knik Arm crossing has a price tag between $600 million to $1 billion. The crossing, along with the Gravina Island bridge project, received nationwide attention in fall 2005 when $452 million was earmarked for their construction in the federal highway bill.

About $94 million of that federal money is in the draft capital budget for the Knik Arm Bridge, The Associated Press reported. But the bridge authority is planning to pay for some of the construction with revenue bonds to be repaid with bridge tolls.

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