Young vows to push construction of Knik Arm bridge

Posted: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

ANCHORAGE -- Congressman Don Young said he still is solidly in favor of building a bridge across Knik Arm.

Young will begin his third year as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and is responsible for writing the nation's major surface transportation bill.

''I'm going to have access to quite a bit of money. I think we'll do quite well,'' he said Tuesday. ''We are going to do well or we won't have a bill.''

Young's committee also writes bills authorizing air and rail projects.

''Altogether, the committee that I'm chairman of will have about $500 billion (in) authorization and appropriations,'' he said.

Young said he plans to pursue three big Alaska projects: a bridge near Ketchikan; a road connecting either Cordova, Juneau or Wrangell to the highway system; and the Knik Arm bridge, which would put Port MacKenzie's thousands of undeveloped acres within easy reach of Anchorage.

Such a bridge would cut short a two-hour drive around the end of the arm and has long been the dream of Anchorage developers, engineers, lawmakers and city leaders. But it would be costly, according to estimates that range up to $1 billion and more.

Young said he'll put an unset amount of money in next year's bill to fund the environmental impact study, design and start of construction, which he said could begin in 2004. He expects to get enough federal money to make the deal attractive, but said the state will likely have to issue bonds to come up with its share, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Supporters of the bridge say it will give Anchorage room to expand.

Young said he envisions Point MacKenzie as the city's new residential center.

But the bridge, including railroad tracks, won't just benefit Anchorage, he said.

''This crossing will open all the northern part of Alaska. We'll have accessibility to a port without going miles around,'' he said. ''I think people see the wisdom of that.

''I've talked about this across the state. I haven't had anybody object to it at all.''

One doubter is Randy Virgin, director of the Alaska Center of the Environment.

''We can't just sprawl forever,'' Virgin said. ''That's sort of the failed model of the Lower 48.''

The experience of other cities is that sprawl doesn't pay for itself, he said. A new residential area requires new roads, schools and public services, but does not usually pay enough in taxes to pay for the services, he said.

''So sure, there may be plenty of land, but can we afford to use it all?''

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