Guest Blogging: Bridges to Nowhere and Beyond

By Pachydiplax

On November 17, 2005, Congress defeated two earmark bills fromAlaska’s sole Congressman, Don Young and the late Senator Ted Stevens, for bridges in Alaska. The first bill earmarked $231 million for what became known as the “Bridge to Nowhere”, a bridge to provide a connection between the port city of Ketchikan and Gravina Island, the location of Ketchikan’s airport. The second bill earmarked $223 million for a bridge connecting Anchorage with Point MacKenzie across the Knik Arm. Both bridges were touted as being important for economic development in Alaska. The 2005 legislation prevented Alaska from spending any federal funds for planning, design or construction of either of these two bridges. The legislation did not eliminate the bridge projects nor did it eliminate the $454 million fromAlaska’s federal transportation funding that year.

The bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina would eliminate the need for the ferryboat that currently serves the 13 families that live on the island and the 200,000 passengers that use the airport each year. The bridge would have to be taller than the Brooklyn Bridge to allow passage for large cargo and passenger ships. The ferry makes its crossing at a narrow location while the bridge would have to be longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, crossing at a wide point, 6 miles south of the ferry crossing, so not to interfere with airport operations. Even thought the bridge hasn’t been built, Alaska did spend our tax dollars to build a road on Gravina Island. It runs for 6 miles south from the airport… to nowhere.

The envisioned 2.6 mile, 4-lane crossing over the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet would consist of causeways built out from each shore connected by a 1.5-mile long bridge. The cost of the bridge and several miles of roadway and interchanges could reach $1.5 billion. The 81-mile drive from Anchorage to the new Goose Creek Correctional facility at Point MacKenzie would only be 12 miles via the bridge. The deepwater port at Point MacKenzie would also benefit from a water crossing to Anchorage. Construction has begun on a 30-mile spur line from the Alaska Railroad at Houston to Port MacKenzie and work is underway reducing road grades and widening roads for expected increases in truck traffic to and from the port. Proponents of the bridge are currently seeking private investors and environmental studies have begun on the bridge project. Meanwhile, there is a need for a way to cross the Knik Arm

That need was closer to being filled in 2010 with the completion of a new ferryboat, the M/V Susitna. Thanks to Senator Stevens and the U.S. Navy, the Mat-Su Borough now owns a $78 million twin-hulled-ice breaking-catamaran ferryboat. It can operate at 17 knots in high seas drawing 12’ of water or reconfigure itself to operate at 4.5’ draft. Unlike any of the 17 ferryboats the State currently operates in the Alaskan Marine Highway system, the M/V Susitna requires more crewmembers than comparably sized ferryboats and crew members require special training. The vessel carries 120 passengers and 20 vehicles. A building housing a passenger terminal and offices for the ferry operators has opened at Port MacKenzie. Now all that is needed are specialized docking facilities at both Port MacKenzie and Anchorage and the ferry will have somewhere to go.

Here’s Yer Freakin’ Water, New York

The water supply for New York City, “The Greatest City in the World”, is provided by three systems of reservoirs stretching through several counties north of the city. According to the NYC website, the “watersheds of the three systems cover an area of almost 2,000 square miles, approximately the size of the state of Delaware.” Wayne and I are lucky to live near several of the reservoirs in the Croton Watershed system. Both of us grew up in a development overlooking the Middle Branch reservoir, and the view on a fall day was glorious. Our wedding was held in late October, 1988, at the Middle Branch Restaurant adjacent to the reservoir.

This photograph is of one of the many reservoirs surrounding Brewster, New York, along Route 6 heading toward Danbury, Connecticut.

This is our Open Thread. Please feel free to add your thoughts on this, or any other topic that comes to mind.

The 21st Century meets the Middle Ages. Where? At the White House.

And I thought my computer infrastructure was outdated. My mobile is an eight year old Nokia and works nicely, if it wants to. But then, I am not having a really important job.

There were some unforeseen challenges the Obama Team met at the White House. The former Administration must have used Bush drums for communications.

Starting a new job is always a challenge. You have to learn where your office is, where the coffee machine is, and the best route from each to the bathroom. Now imagine how complicated it must be when an entirely new administration starts working in the White House! In addition to the normal challenges, President Obama and his staff suffered through a number of surprising headaches.

For example, many phone lines had been disconnected. Dialing numbers inside the building often resulted in a busy signal. Software installed on PCs left in the building was outdated. And worst of all, the folks so keen on their Facebooks and Twitters found that government regulations drastically curtail how they can communicate. (read on)

Barack Obama’s weekly address – Open Thread

President elect Obama is surely tackling the roots of many of your problems. I wonder, if there is enough money around to really accomplish the project. But he is right, a recession is the time for governments to spend, but bail-outs and such are not the way to go if the money spent doesn’t have a lasting effect.

Discuss this and what else is on your mind here and don’t miss the new posts that keep coming in during the day!