Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Knik Arm Crossing resolution stalls

With the national media now beginning to take notice on that other bridge to nowhere, Tuesday night saw the resolution asking for the Assembly to drop the bridge from its long range transportation plans stall a bit. It may first sound unbelievable when you hear that the Anchorage Assembly voted unanimously for the resolution, but before you react, there's some details you gotta know. Assembly members Dan Coffey and Chris Birch removed wording from the resolution that asks for the Assembly to immediately drop the Knik Arm Bridge from the city's transportation agenda. Instead, the bridge is to be re-reviewed by AMATS (the state and city transportation board) and again put before public testimony. Sheila Selkregg, when interviewed on Channel 2 later in the night, remained optimistic as she pointed out that the resolution still retains its ultimate motive of seeking whether the bridge should be dropped.

So it looks like we will see a repeat of what we saw in 2007 when the then conservative Assembly added the Knik Arm Bridge to the city's long range transportation plans. In other words, we will see more testimony from KABATA (the bridge and toll authority overseeing the project) as they answer questions such as the costs and environmental impact, while another public testimony before the Assembly is expected later. Unlike 2007 however, I predict the results will be different in that we will indeed see the bridge knocked out of the AMATS agenda of fund worthy projects. Why? Well as I've said in my previous entry, times have changed. I'm willing to go as far as to say the bridge today is more unpopular than it was last year. And if you were at the Assembly last year during public testimony like I was, then you know how passionately Government Hill residents and others were against this project. Supporters of the bridge in last years public testimony were a small minority. But now one year later, George Wuerch, the former mayor appointed to lead KABATA, has resigned. Henry Springer (or as I call him, Henry Kissenger's long lost brother) , who was KABATA's spokesman, also left along with the deputy director (who shall remain nameless since I don't know his name). On top of that, the issue of federal earmarks and bridges to nowhere are returning to the national headlines thanks to Sarah Palin, while gas prices have soared bringing Mayor Begich to sign a deal with Mat-Su Borough Mayor Menard to establish a regional transit authority earlier this summer. In other words, it appears this will be a slower death blow for the bridge rather than a fast one. Even without considering the outside factors that have occurred since last year, the Assembly has the votes to please Mrs. Selkregg and Patrick Flynn. It's not the public that decides in the end whether the bridge stays on the AMATS board. Here's my prediction on the voting that will probably take place later this year after public hearings:

Flynn: Drop the bridge
Drummond: Drop the bridge
Gray-Jackson: Drop the bridge
Sheila Selkregg: Drop the bridge
Claman: Drop the bridge
Gutierrez: Drop the bridge
Coffey: Keep the bridge
Starr: Keep the bridge
Birch: Keep the bridge
Ossiander: Keep the bridge
Johnston: Keep the bridge
Mayor Begich: Drop the bridge

Unlike last year, Drummond, Gray-Jackson, and Gutierrez have all replaced formerly conservative seats. In 2006, Selkregg replaced conservative Ken Stout (who was a very scary guy when looking at his philosophy of how urban development should be). Again though, I just wanna stress that if and when the Assembly drops the bridge, this will NOT be the end. After this, it will be up to Governor Palin to reallocate the federal money upon Assembly request.