Thursday, September 18, 2008

On the Road to Nowhere with Palin

When Palin's Bridge to Nowhere project was halted, it didn't stop her from pulling the plug on a $26 million road that would lead to the bridge. In July 2007, Lois Epstein, director of the nonpartisan Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, urged Palin to stop construction on the road. She handed Palin an editorial written by Heritage Foundation fellow Ronald Utt. In the editorial, Utt called the road a "wasteful" project with "little to no measurable benefit." He urged Palin to be "responsible and ethical" and "return the money to Washington" so it could be redirected to hurricane-ravaged Louisiana and Mississippi.

Epstein told ProRepublica, "I gave her the Heritage Foundation piece and said this is not a good project and she should think about reappropriating the money." According to Epstein, Palin said her administration was "very close" to a decision. Two months later, Palin announced the state wouldn't pursue the $398 million bridge. She didn't mention the $26 million project well underway to build a 3.2 mile access road to an empty beach.

McCain and Palin have been agressively spinning the tale of Palin as the great reformer, offering the "Bridge to Nowhere" story as evidence. "As governor, I've championed earmark reform to stop Congress from wasting public money on things that don't necessarily serve the public interest," she said last week.

As ProPublica reported last week, Palin is still planning to link Ketchikan (pop. 7,400) to its airport on Gravina Island (popl 50) using as much as $73 million in federal funds earmarked by Congress for the original "Bridge to Nowhere" project. On top of that, she's already spent $26 million to build the gravel road on Gravina, which hardly serves the public interest. Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense said, "This project isn't satisfying any specific transportation purpose or any public need."

Today, the McCain campaign issued a statement to ProPublica acknowledging that the project was ongoing and emphasizing that Palin had rejected the most expensive design for the bridge. They didn't address why Palin had not stopped construction on the $26 million road.

"Governor Palin opposed a wasteful, unwise, and irresponsible funding plan that was not the best means for fulfilling the local community's needs," said McCain spokesperson Maria Comella in an e-mailed statement. "Governor Palin understood that a more cost efficient, sensible solution could still be implemented to satisfy the economic and infrastructural demands of the community."

I wonder if all 50 citizens of Gravina are satified knowing that Palin built a road costing $520,000 per person? Not to mention the millions she still plans to spend on a bridge.


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