Commentary: Knik bridge project should be dropped

A compromise is brewing that would keep the controversial Knik Arm crossing in the city's official transportation plan, but delay construction seven years to 2018. Instead of delaying the poorly-planned, sprawl-inducing bridge a few years, the city and state should simply shelve the project and stop wasting money. They can dust off the plans in 10 or 15 years and see if anything has changed.

The compromise comes from an advisory group of state, city and professional planners and engineers. They advise the AMATS Policy Committee, which decides how to spend federal transportation money in Anchorage.

Some compromise supporters point out that a delay until 2018 would allow time to remedy some serious flaws in current plans. The project doesn't include pedestrian and bicycle access or a rail link.

Financing is another flaw in the current plan. Funding construction of an expensive bridge to empty land by using bonds, to be repaid entirely by tolls, would be a challenge in normal times. Bonding for such a speculative project will be even harder, given the economic and financial turmoil afflicting the nation. To save money on the Anchorage end, planners will defer the expensive connector that's needed so traffic from the bridge can bypass the heart of downtown. Delay would buy more time to figure out how to pay for that piece.

But delay wouldn't take care of the fundamental problems with the bridge: that it would lead to sprawling growth on empty land across Knik Arm, weaken the city's tax base and contradict the Anchorage 2020, the city's development plan.

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