It’s a great deal, but not for taxpayers - Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman: Editorials

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It’s a great deal, but not for taxpayers

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Posted: Thursday, January 19, 2012 9:41 pm | Updated: 12:02 pm, Fri Jan 27, 2012.

What sort of business would you start or project would you back if you could get the state of Alaska and federal government to assume all the fiscal risk, cover your payroll and pay a good chunk of the actual costs?

No doubt there are a lot of projects private businessmen and women would be willing to take on if they could get those terms.

But those are the terms for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority. The public keeps the risk and private business keeps the profit - should there ever be any. And if not, the losses? Those belong to the public, too.

This is a great deal for someone, but not for taxpayers.

Meanwhile, political support for the project seems to have softened significantly among state and federal lawmakers such as Congressman Don Young, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, and Alaska lawmakers such as Sen. Bert Steadman and Rep. Les Gara. And even Gov. Sean Parnell.

Begich and Young both warn against expecting more federal dollars to fund the project. That's a big change from when Young was the powerful chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee that approved the initial earmark for the bridge project.

The project also was backed by then-governor Frank Murkowski who sponsored and passed legislation to create the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority in 2003.

Back then, KABATA had an annual budget of about $500,000 and three full-time staff. But seven years and two governors later, board chair Mike Foster said KABATA will ask for $1.834 million in state money to pay its 10-person staff from state general funds this year.

No wonder these folks are so bullish on the project - we pay them each an average of $200,000 to advance the project whether or not it's a good idea.

The bridge is part of a growing list of public assets in the Point MacKenzie area that we hope will one day repay the millions in public dollars invested there - a ferry, a ferry terminal, a deep water dock, a prison and possibly, some day, the Knik Arm Bridge.

These assets were acquired in an era in Alaska where federal earmarks were accepted and expected. But now these federal "gifts" feel like game show prizes that come with tax bills we can't afford.

Because we can't afford it, not another cent of public money should be spent on this project until the mission of KABATA is changed to include a cost-benefit clause that states that the project advances only if it is in the best interest of Alaskans.

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5 comments:

  • MtMike posted at 7:25 pm on Sun, Jun 10, 2012.

    MtMike Posts: 475

    Mat Su Valley has grown to 100,000 people,within 25,000 square miles. One of the fastest growing areas anywhere in the US

    There is no proper local government infrastructure for the growth that has happened in the Mat Su.

    No borough police, 3 code compliance officers for 25,000 square miles, no building inspectors, lack of fire prevention, no sewer for the growth at Point MacKenzie, road congestion, no parks or restrooms for public use, no plan for schools for the growth that has happened, king salmon fishing in the Mat Su Valley now shut down and talk and plans for a dam on the Su. Ridiculous crooked government management!

    This lack of a master plan for the growth that has happened and is to happen, will prove even more costly to existing tax payers and tax payers in the future.

    Mat Su government and staff are in the "pockets" of developers.

    Developers have already reaped the profit from the existing development, at the expense of local property tax payers who are left holding the bill.

    Mat Su tax payers are involved and paying for a "ferry" with no practical use, dry docked, a prison that is not cost effective to operate, not open, and when open, will be full by 2016 at current Alaska incarceration rates, a rail link to a port, tied up in courts, a port, that depends on the rail link, a bridge and a coal mine not approved, a bridge that can not be built cost effectively, and the Mat Su Valley suffers and has road congestion, sprawl, crime, junkyards and nothing approved or settled by government or borough staff or tax payers!

    Mat Su Staff gvernment and staff plows blindly ahead with even more growth plans, like a ski hill. Why? Tax Payers have not approved any of this "development"!

    We local land owners already pay some of the highest mill rate in the US, with minimal service in Mat Su Borough and can only expect our tax rates to go up.

    Local and State Government has put the cart in front of the horse, for the benefit of the developers, at current tax payers expense.

    Stop, and repair the damage done, draw up a master plan, including the necessary government infrastructure to support such !

     
  • gdhanson posted at 3:59 pm on Sun, Jan 22, 2012.

    gdhanson Posts: 3

    I believe one of the smartest things "Alaskans" could do would be to invest in the Mat~Su Port instead of the Anchorage Port, the Knik Arm Bridge and the Mat~Su railroad commuter at this time. These projects may be viable in the future but not now. Doing what I suggest would be better for ALL Alaskans by making it cheaper to transport goods to the interior by eliminating the truck and/or rail time between Anchorage and the Mat~Su area. It would create more quality jobs in the Valley thereby reducing the need to drive the road to Anchorage for jobs, reduce the need for an expensive, heavily subsidized commuter rail and reduce the truck traffic, making the road safer and reduce maintenance. The Mat~Su port doesn't require the expensive dredging required by the Anchorage port. Anchorage may cry that this would reduce property values (doubtful) but but the values are grossly inflated and need adjusting that would help avoid a larger crash. The values would most likely just level off. Alaska is one of the few growing states and barring any unforseen disasters, it will continue to grow. It just stands to reason, the Mat~Su port is where the money should go now.

     
  • fixroads posted at 11:15 am on Sun, Jan 22, 2012.

    fixroads Posts: 1

    Thank you Frontiersman for making sense on this subject. The bridge will not help most commuters. It is going to be hard to maintain long enough to make economic sense to anyone but the people hired to build and maintain it. It would better to improve existing roads with the money. That's something that all Alaskans would benifit from at a lot lower cost.

     
  • posted at 4:49 pm on Sat, Jan 21, 2012.

    Posts:

    The bridge would allow straight access for the Alaska Court System in Anchorage to
    take prisoners to the new prison. Would allow an alternative to sitting in traffic while
    people are waiting to get down "brake light hill". Truckers from the port could head
    straight north and avoid Wasilla, so no more need for a Wasiila by-pass. There are
    many positives to this project, maybe even hang a left and build a gravel road to
    Dillingham.

     
  • lwilson posted at 5:16 pm on Fri, Jan 20, 2012.

    lwilson Posts: 47

    Short sighted and anti-development, but what else should we expect from our local paper? The Knik Arm Bridge will be in the best interest of Alaskans, particularly anyone living in Fairbanks and southcentral. Depending on where you access the bridge, 30-45 miles and up to an hour of driving time will be shaved off trips between Fairbanks and Anchorage. This will create huge cost savings for fuel, environmental impact and traffic management on the Wasilla-Glenn Hwy to Anchorage route. Long haul trucks and a significant portion commuter/passenger auto traffic could bypass these congested areas completely. The Bridge really isn't about opening Point Mac for development.