- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 1, 2005

The call for Alaska to give back its federal bridge money — shouted on blustery TV talk shows and inscribed on the editorial pages of America’s most august newspapers — is ringing in Alaska, too.

Last week, the state’s Green Party asked Rep. Don Young, Alaska Republican, to relinquish the $454 million he obtained for the Knik and Ketchikan bridges and redirect the money to Louisiana and other hurricane-damaged states.

So did the head of the conservative Eagle Forum Alaska.

“Many Alaskans were already alarmed at the massive amounts of spending by the federal government, and the recent disasters in the Gulf states makes these outrageous numbers even more alarming,” said Debbie Joslin, president of the 1,000-member Eagle Forum.

Anchorage resident Gene Storm, a freelance editor, hastily formed a group called Alaska’s Bridge to Unity and is gathering signatures of Alaskans who want Congress to redirect the bridge money.

Emily Ferry, coordinator of a group called the Alaska Transportation Priorities Project, went a step further, starting a Web site called americagivesback.org. It provides an electronic form so visitors can instantly write their representatives in Congress and urge them to give up transportation projects to help hurricane victims.

More than 745 people have used the Web site to write to their representatives since the feature debuted Tuesday.

To make a dent, the movement has to be nationwide, Miss Ferry said.

“It can’t just be Alaska or California or Indiana,” she said.

The site provides a link to all the pet projects in the bill. These “earmarked” projects total more than $24 billion across the country. Alaska’s total about $1 billion.

“Make your message even stronger by offering to give back specific projects from your state,” the site invites.

But the two Alaska bridges are every critic’s poster pork for the perceived excesses in the five-year national highway bill Mr. Young ushered through Congress in July.

The bill has $231 million for the Knik bridge, which would provide an alternate route from Anchorage to the Mat-Su Valley, home to thousands of commuters as well as undeveloped acreage that Anchorage developers yearn for.

The bill also has $223 million for a bridge to connect Ketchikan to largely unpopulated Gravina Island, which hosts the airport. Supporters say it will give Ketchikan much-needed room to grow and also allow the city’s residents to get to their airport without boarding a ferry boat.

Even before Hurricane Katrina struck, groups as far apart as the Sierra Club and the Heritage Foundation criticized the bridges as pork, often calling them “bridges to nowhere.”

Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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