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Setting the Record Straight on the Knik Arm Bridge

No time savings, significant additional costs should be part of the discussion

JUNEAU- Today, Representative Les Gara released a Legislative Research report in order to set the record straight about certain aspects of the Knik Arm Bridge project.

"As the state grapples with looming budget deficits, it's important to consider the recent $150 million request for funds from Knik Arm Bridge proponents," said Rep. Les Gara. 

A recently prepared report from the Legislative Research Department raises a few points the public should debate before spending significant funds on this project.  The report concludes:

1.       The Bridge will not reduce commute times to Palmer or Wasilla.

2.       The Bridge will require an additional $378 million in costs to build approach bridges, a tunnel, a bridge expansion and highways to access the bridge from both sides.

3.       Phase 2 of the project will require an additional bridge to be built from Ingra Street in downtown Anchorage, over Ship Creek as part of the approach to the bridge.

Rep. Gara's constituents in Government Hill have expressed concern about a plan to dig through neighborhood streets as part of the approach route to the bridge.

"The project struck a nerve in Government Hill when proponents insisted they would have to demolish homes in Anchorage's oldest neighborhood," said Gara.

"There are negatives and positives about the bridge that the public should understand.  The first myth we need to take off the table is that spending money on this bridge will reduce travel times to Palmer or Wasilla. The second is that the cost of the bridge represents the full cost of the project.  That cost doubles when the approach roads, bridges, tunnel and other upgrades occur," said Rep. Gara.

There are also major questions whether bridge proponents' estimates that the toll will only be $5 each way are realistic, given how few people are likely to use the bridge.

Bob French, Government Hill Community Council President, has released the following statement from his studies of the project: 

"You need 20,900 one way trips a day at $5 apiece just to make the annual bond payments of $38.3 million per year on a 37.5 year debt.  The current traffic to and from the Valley is 29,000 trips a day and it is not a shorter trip to use the Knik Arm Bridge unless you live west or south of Wasilla, so most of the Valley will continue to use the Glenn Highway. KABATA's forecast that they will have 20,000 trips per day over the bridge only three years after it opens, is not a "reality based" estimate.  For KABATA to eventually pay back the construction, financing, operations and maintenance costs, they either will need a much higher toll, like $15 or more, or they need to push out their "payback period" to 60 years or more."



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