Senator Obama and his surrogates keep claiming that Sarah Palin did not Kill the bridge to nowhere until Congress killed it. According to Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) a consumer watchdog group:
“Media reports that Congress killed the Bridge to Nowhere are not accurate,” said Schatz. “The 2006 transportation appropriations bill allowed Alaska to decide whether or not to move forward. Governor Murkowski said yes; Governor Palin said no. Any discussion about the project should begin with facts.
What follows is a narrative of the steps that led to Palin’s decision a year ago to kill the Bridge to Nowhere, known properly as the Gravina Bridge The story isn’t very exciting. The earmark for the bridge–$223 million in federal funds–was enacted as part of the highway bill in August 2005. But the earmark sparked a controversy and didn’t last long. Later that year, the earmark designation was removed and the money became “non-restricted” federal funds, meaning it could be used for other projects…..
The End of the Bridge to Nowhere
How Sarah Palin killed a costly project.
by Fred Barnes
09/18/2008take our poll - story continues below
LIBERAL COLUMNISTS AND the mainstream media have been unusually tolerant of Barack Obama’s exaggerated claims of major legislative accomplishments. Just this week, Obama said his proposal was the “basis” for the economic stimulus package that was enacted last winter, a claim even Democrats regard as false. But Sarah Palin’s insistence that, as governor of Alaska, she killed the infamous Bridge to Nowhere–that’s another story. She’s accused of lying by the Obama-leaning media.
She isn’t lying. Palin did kill the bridge. It wasn’t an act of great political courage. It didn’t have to be, since the bridge had become a national symbol of wasteful congressional spending. But Palin did have the option of saving the project–several options actually. And there was still some support for the bridge among state and local (in Ketchikan, where the bridge was to be built) officials in Alaska. But Palin chose to terminate the whole thing.
Maybe it’s her bravado that has driven Palin’s critics to distraction. In her speech accepting the vice presidential nomination at the Republican nomination, she declared she’d sent Washington this message about the bridge: “Thanks, but no thanks.” She’s repeated that line in campaign appearances.
In any case, the contrast with Obama, who has no major accomplishments to show for his four years in the Senate, is striking. Besides killing the bridge, Palin brought down the Republican establishment in Alaska and took on the oil companies in the state.
What follows is a narrative of the steps that led to Palin’s decision a year ago to kill the Bridge to Nowhere, known properly as the Gravina Bridge:
The story isn’t very exciting. The earmark for the bridge–$223 million in federal funds–was enacted as part of the highway bill in August 2005. But the earmark sparked a controversy and didn’t last long. Later that year, the earmark designation was removed and the money became “non-restricted” federal funds, meaning it could be used for other projects.
Under a formula too complicated to explain, only $100 million of the formerly earmarked funds were now available for the bridge. And $300 million in state funds would be needed to finish the project. In December 2005, then-Governor Frank Murkowski ordered it to proceed. The bridge would connect Ketchikan to a largely undeveloped Gravina Island.
However, the state department of transportation declined to move ahead until all the construction funds, including the state’s portion, had been appropriated. Because the state money hadn’t been, the project remained idle.
It’s true, as widely reported, that Palin endorsed the project in a gubernatorial primary debate in 2006, going along with the state’s congressional delegation. Later, she defeated Murkowski and another candidate in the primary and was elected governor in the general election. In December 2006, Palin was sworn in.
Palin had initially heard second-guessing of the bridge project from her transition team. She, in turn, asked for a status report on a number of planned highways and bridges from transportation department officials.
The report was drafted by deputy transportation chief John McKinnon, a Murkowski appointee. His report didn’t make a recommendation, but his implicit advice was that the money for the Gravina Bridge could be better used on other projects. One reason: It was a local bridge, not a regional one. Another reason: It was very expensive.
As 2007 wore on, Palin learned of various transportation needs around the state, McKinnon told me. Moving ahead on the Gravina Bridge would prevent many of these needs from being met for lack of funds.
But Palin could have done just that. One option was simply to couple $300 million in state funds with the $100 million in federal money and build the bridge. Or Palin could have tapped other federal highway funds Alaska had received. “The governor could have said I’m going to put all our federal funds into the bridge,” according to McKinnon.
Still another option was to use federal funds collected over a period of 3 or 4 years to construct the bridge. However, none of these options was particularly attractive. The project was resented in other regions of Alaska and had become the target of national criticism.
So Palin decided to terminate it and instruct transportation officials to “look for the most fiscally responsible alternative.” As of yet they haven’t found one.
In announcing her decision, Palin said, “It’s clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island We need to focus on what we can do, rather than fight over what has happened.”
The Bridge to Nowhere was dead. Palin could have saved it, but she didn’t. She killed it. And today, instead of a bridge, travelers get to and from Gravina Island the old-fashioned and inexpensive way–by a ferry.