It was a 315 million dollar construction project that has raised many an eyebrow since it was first announced. The Gravina bridge, a fanciful project that would eliminate a ferry ride and link the Ketchikan airport (hey is that familiar or what) and 50 residents of Gravina Island with the city of Ketchikan is suddenly not a sure thing anymore.
The pride and joy of Representative Don Young and receiving some strong vocal backing from Senator Lisa Murkowski (daughter of the State's Governor), it has come to define the term pork in the world of the pork barrel.
The bridge which was to be almost as long as the Golden Gate Bridge and taller than the Brooklyn Bridge has been the talk of Ketchikan ever since the idea was floated, but the real interest came from a number of tax payer groups tired of uncontrolled spending. With America's infrastructure crumbling from neglect and disasters, many Americans have begun to question the logic in building a bridge for a city of 8,000 when cities like New Orleans still have major sections laying in ruin.
Apparently someone in Washington heard some noise as the Senate Appropriations committee has removed the Federal earmarks for the project and effectively sent it to the State level for further financing. Which puts the project into the hands of Governor Frank Murkowski, who if required to foot the bill with Alaskan money, may find that the old Ketchikan ferries with their current daily timetable will do just fine.
The debate over the project has descended into farce at times, wrong information, misstatements and threats have all been part of the lore of the Gravina Bridge. It has even made it to the big times, getting mentioned in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopolous, all of whom have been scathing in their indictment of the plans. If nothing else, Ketchikan is getting more publicity than the Chamber of Commerce could ever afford to buy, mind you not all that publicity is particularly good. But as they say in advertising, just make sure to spell the client's name right.
It makes for a cautionary tale for the folks of Podunk and the ever popular Tsimpsean Access project, at one time a dream of local politicians, who said they one day saw a bridge to the airport and across the way to Port Simpson. One wonders if the Digby Island bridge would attract the same kind of national attention in Canada that Gravina has generated in the States.
As the folks in Ketchikan are quickly learning, wishing so, doesn't necessarily make it so!