Thursday, December 19, 2013

Farewell, Mona Lisa

Anchorage is a strange place, transportation-wise. I remember growing up and living in a pseudo-suburb. I worked in a bigger town 15 miles away while in high school. Therefore I drove from my home to work everyday and most days the first first question I asked myself was "Which way to go?"

There were five routes from my town to where I worked. Granted, it was in the midwest and what else is there to do with the land but to put roads on it. I'd venture that any towns or cities of any size are in a similar situation with multiple ways in and out. Anchorage is not like that at all.

The biggest city in Alaska has one route in from the north and one from the south. One. And it also has a large commuter population to the north - Eagle River, Chugiak, Peter's Creek, Palmer, Wasilla, Big Lake, and even further north. And at 5:00 on any given day, the one route from Anchorage to the north looks like any freeway in Los Angeles. Okay, maybe that's a bit unfair. We generally aren't stand-still or gridlock. Maybe more like Omaha Nebraska - traffic moving, but moving slooooowwwwlllly.

It seems that in the event of some type of catastrophe folks in Anchorage would be FUBAR. Can't get people out or supplies in. Not a good situation.

There has been a push for years to get a bridge over the Knik arm - the infamous Bridge to Nowhere - to help split the traffic. Folks going to the more northern parts of the valley would be able to cut quite a bit off their trip and it would hopefully reduce some congestion on the main route.

However, in Alaska nothing gets done without a fight and a lot of finger-pointing and teeth gnashing. This article gives a bit of history and background as well as discussing the changes that the governor proposes.

First off, let me state that in general and in principle I find Gov. Parnell about as repulsive as the governor he replaced. He has proven himself to be generally a close-minded, bigoted, homophobic, and, most importantly, short-sighted leader who willingly whores the state out to the highest bidder. But at first blush, I agree with his approach on this one. Read the article here, then come on back, ya hear?

I get that transport funds are always in short supply. But shouldn't the lack of egress and ingress to the state's largest city be considered not only a matter of transport, but also public safety?

I've heard a lot of arguments against the bridge - many focused around the cost vs. benefit. (Toll road ideas just don't fly up here - roads should be free, right? This is Murica - where the car is king, after all.) But I've also heard arguments from the people who live in Government Hill, where this bridge would connect with Anchorage and they don't like the idea of having increased traffic in their neighborhood. They're generally fine with the bridge, but route the traffic through someone else's neighborhood - like Mountain View. The people there don't really matter as they are minorities and the working poor anyway.

The other argument, or conspiracy theory, I've heard is that the city fathers - Sullivan, et. al., don't want the bridge to go through because that will potentially eat into their tax base as people leave the city for the new, roomy, and white bread housing tracts that will go up on the other side of the Arm when the bridge goes in. And there is some validity there. That's one reason we moved to the valley. Couldn't afford a house in Anchorage, couldn't get as much house, as much space here. And I'd be paying twice to two and a half times as much each year in property taxes. (This is a discussion for another day - how much I miss the services that the Anchorage property taxes provide...)

But the biggest argument is just that people don't think they should have to pay to drive. And because the idea of a toll was connected to the bridge, there is a vocal majority who will never, no matter what, try to shout down any idea or plan that is connected to the Knik Arm Bridge.

Anyway, read the comments on the story. They tell the whole story and, unfortunately, provide a good representation of many Alaskans - quick to spout off, speaking only in either/or options, unwilling to discuss any opinions that do not mesh with their own, and generally really iffy in the grammar arena.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you on the bottleneck problem, and personally have no issue with tolls roads. My issue with KAC is that the toll that is proposed to pay for the bridge won't even come close to paying for the bridge (which is also a one lane per direction bridge, meaning one stalled car and the whole "alleviate bottleneck" concept is out the window).

    I'd strongly recommend reading this letter from Scott Goldsmith of ISER to the legislature. It highlights a lot of why KAC is a great idea, conceptually, turned into a horrible investment, in application.