Commentary: Alaska shouldn't try to force through Knik Bridge project

As Anchorage's local government and transportation planners near the end of a nine-month process aimed at halting the expensive and controversial Knik Arm Bridge project, the Palin administration has suddenly stepped in and is trying to keep the project alive.

It's a misguided use of state time and transportation dollars. Many people, including us, believe the bridge to mostly empty land in the Mat-Su does not fit into Anchorage 2020, the city's development plan. It promotes sprawling development outside city limits and hurts prospects for smarter urban growth in Anchorage. The bridge would dump bridge vehicle traffic into the city center – into a downtown that the city has been trying to improve for pedestrians, such as shoppers, conventioneers and museum-goers. That's counter-productive.

Others balk at the price tag, starting at $700 million – another legitimate concern. The bridge backers had been hoping for private financing, but with the world recession that's looking less likely. The latest idea is that the state would co-sign for revenue bonds to build the project. The bonds would be paid back by tolls on bridge users – another iffy proposition.

A majority of the Anchorage Assembly voted last September to consider deleting the bridge from city's Long Range Transportation Plan. Various committees and commissions have had since then to study all the ramifications. A draft proposal to axe the bridge project has been out for public comment since April. The issue is now before the Assembly for a recommendation, and the joint state-municipal panel that makes the decision, known as the AMATS Policy Committee, is due to vote later this month.

But in the past three weeks, Frank Richards, deputy state transportation commissioner, has sent out two letters charging that AMATS is rushing the process, violating "contractual commitments" made to the state and violating federal law.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Anchorage Daily News.