Rep. Gara Objects to KABATA Plan to Destroy Homes and Businesses
Destroying homes before bridge is approved puts cart before the horse
JUNEAU – Today, Representative Les Gara sent a letter to the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA) objecting to the rude awakening the group gave to property and business owners on Government Hill this fall. Letters from KABATA, a government agency, told owners that they will be vacated from those properties by this summer. KABATA has issued binding purchase offers and written in correspondence that it intends to own these properties by the summer of 2012. The project still has no funding, no developer, requires a potential $1 billion or more in state liability and appropriations, and has not yet been approved.
“Spending millions of dollars in state money to destroy businesses and homes, for a project we don’t know will ever be built, puts the cart before the horse, and is a wasteful use of state money,” said Rep. Les Gara, who believes these properties should not be purchased unless and until project permits and funding have been approved. “I can’t think of another case where you’ve destroyed homes and businesses before deciding whether to build the actual project,” said Rep. Gara.
Until 2009, KABATA’s promise was that this bridge, and all approach roads and infrastructure would be privately funded by a builder who would collect tolls. But that changed last year, when KABATA started to push legislation to appropriate $150 million in state funds for this project and guarantee the private developer potentially upwards of $1 billion dollars to cover shortfalls if tolls don’t cover the cost of construction and operation of the bridge.
“The bridge, by KABATA’s own admission, doesn’t shorten the commute to the greater Palmer and Wasilla areas, and it’s unlikely it will see much traffic, or toll revenue, when most Valley residents can drive home for free on the Glenn Highway,” said Rep. Gara.
Similar sentiments have come from Government Hill Community Council President Bob French, who has followed this project for many years and seen many broken promises.
“My Government Hill neighbors and I are astounded that KABATA is taking our homes and businesses when they don't have critical permits, and all of their sources of funds are either completely uncertain or, in the case of their toll predictions, overly optimistic, said French. “We see little chance that over $353 million in Federal loans will be awarded to this project, and KABATA's plan to use state funds to guarantee private profits is abhorrent to taxpayers.”
Read Rep. Gara’s letter to KABATA, the letter from KABATA to property owners announcing the purchase schedule, and statements from U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) indicating that future federal funding for this project may also be in jeopardy.