Alaska bridge request gets cool reaction from state lawmakers

The Anchorage Daily NewsFebruary 16, 2011 

A proposal to give at least $150 million in state money for the Knik Arm bridge is moving forward in the Alaska Senate despite big questions raised by legislators.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Tuesday moved out with no objection a pair of bills to give money to the controversial project. But the sponsor of the bills, Wasilla Republican Sen. Linda Menard, was the only committee member to give unqualified support for giving bridge backers what they want.

Fairbanks Democratic Sen. Joe Thomas said he's afraid the state could be on the hook for a lot more than the initial $150 million. "My concern is knowing exactly what the state's obligation is going to be in the long run," he said.

But the proposal has influential backers, including Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. He wrote a letter urging the Legislature to pass the bills, saying the Knik Arm bridge would be "an asset to Alaskans for generations."

Senate Transportation Chairman Albert Kookesh said the questions about cost will be hashed out in the Finance Committee, where the bills go next. Kookesh, a Democrat from the Southeast community of Angoon, wrote that he had "no recommendation" on whether the bills are a good idea.

The project is a two-lane bridge connecting Anchorage to mostly undeveloped Mat-Su land near Point MacKenzie. The plan is to collect tolls from drivers, with a charge estimated to be $5 each way per vehicle.

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