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Knik Arm Crossing, A Bridge to Nowhere

Maryellen Oman

The Knik Arm Bridge is a proposed 13,500-ft span across Knik Arm from Anchorage to hundreds of square miles of unpopulated wetlands to the north. The bridge has long been a twinkle in the eyes of politicians and land speculators, but had been mothballed over 2 decades due to cost and engineering difficulty. Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski are now working to bring the bridge back from the dead.

High cost, low benefit:

A January 31, 2003 feasibility study estimated the cost at $1.54 billion which could go a long way to improve existing infrastructure in Alaska. DOT estimates that 80% of our transportation needs are currently unfunded.

The bridge is expected to encourage sprawl and drain Anchorage s tax base at a time when the Anchorage Comprehensive Plan and city leaders prescribe redevelopment and infill.

A long wish list of Anchorage-area transportation projects go without funding year after year including a fix for the snarled Lake Otis and Tudor intersection, improvements at 15th and Ocean Dock Road, and public transit.

The bridge would be too far west to catch the majority of the population coming into Anchorage from existing population areas to the North, and would actually add to the commute for residents of Palmer and many in Wasilla.

Cook Inlet Beluga Whales, a species of special concern numbering less than 400 animals, depends on Knik Arm and the area affected by the bridge for feeding grounds.

An alternative exists:

An enhanced connection between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley to the North can be made at a fraction of the cost, using existing transportation corridors, by developing commuter rail between Anchorage and Palmer-Wasilla. The Alaska Railroad is already working to straighten the tracks, an intermodal station has been built on the Palmer end, and another intermodal station is planned on the Anchorage end.

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