Last week I wrote about Senator Ted Stevens and the work over he received from our Department of Justice. I remain disappointed and mad that the DOJ has not rolled the heads of those responsible and apologized to Stevens family. That work stirred up another story that I have to get out of my system.
Senator Stevens was the major supporter of the Gravina Island Bridge that came to be derisively known as the “Bridge to Nowhere” in 2007/2008. The uninformed and mean-spirited decried Stevens’ support of the Bridge citing the fact that the Gravina Island is nearly uninhabited. That is true. Let me explain how unimportant that is however. Gravina Island is just across the TongassNarrows from Ketchikan, Alaska (the fifth largest city in Alaska, about 15 thousand people).
Prior to the completion of the Ketchikan International Airport on Gravina Island the only way to access air travel of any distance was to fly from Ketchikan by seaplane to Annette Island where jet airplanes could land. The new Ketchikan airport was completed in the early 1970′s accommodating commercial and general aviation. The airport has hangers, shops, flat space, cargo facilities, a passenger terminal, car rental agencies, gift shops, a restaurant, and all the trappings of a modern airport, just not a lot of people living permanently at the airport.
The major change from 1960′s is crossing the water to the airport is by car/passenger ferry, not as exciting as the WWII PBY to Annette but quicker. The ferry runs every half hour from each side and there is a fee for passengers and cars both ways. The ferry competes with cruise ships, seaplanes, fishing vessels, Coast Guard Cutters, Alaska State Ferries, and recreational boaters in crossing the half-mile of water.
The proposed Gravina Island Bridge would have allowed travel by auto (or by foot I suppose) directly to and from the airport to Ketchikan. The bridge would also have allowed real estate and resort development on Gravina Island, a real boost to Ketchikan’s economy. The bridge was not built because the political will could not be mustered to spend 400 million dollars on a bridge to an uninhabited island. Even the governor who knew, or should have known the facts publicly and loudly derided the project.
My take away is to ask critical questions especially when something is presented so simplistically. Was the proposed $400 million too much – I don’t know but a good person to ask is the one who lives in Ketchikan and uses the airport ferry to access the airport. There’s always more to the story.
In the rich history of Alaska there was another “bridge to nowhere” also known as the Million Dollar Bridge. That one allowed the extraction of $200 million dollars of copper ore.