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A TALE OF TWO BRIDGES
State Rep. Vic Kohring
Feb. 8, 2006
"Is the proposed Knik Arm bridge worth building? Definitely. Let's do
it. Here is where a "limited government" ought to do what is right."
- Rep. Kohring
I clearly remember a grim 1955 Korean War Movie called "The Bridges of
Toko-Ri" starring William Holden as a Navy fighter pilot and Mickey
Rooney as the wise cracking helicopter jock who's always saving
Holden's life. Flying old Grumman Panthers, Holden and his squadron
must bomb the highly defended bridges at Toko-Ri in North Korea. After
seeing one of his friends die in a ball of flames as his Panther is
hit by enemy fire, Holden asks the admiral aboard ship, "Why must we
do this? Is it worth all these fine men's lives? For a few bridges?"
The admiral explains that without the bridges the enemy cannot sustain
the offensives that have been killing so many Americans. So that yes,
a few lives lost at these bridges translates into many lives saved at
the front. The bridges are most important.
Fast-forward to 2006. We debate building a bridge this time. My point
is that just as the U.S. Navy was willing to spend precious lives and
treasure to destroy bridges, we are now debating the worth of building
a new one. Bridges are still most important! Fortunately this time, we
are debating the cost and necessity of a bridge instead of how many
men must die to destroy one.
Enter the proposed Knik Arm bridge. Why build it?
1) It would expand and make commerce easier, by taking a full hour
off the Anchorage-Fairbanks run for trucks moving all manner of goods.
That translates into a powerful cost cutting measure. It would mean
that the things you buy and eat would cost less because of cheaper
transport. The same benefit would be achieved with a side span bridge
for railroad traffic.
2) The bridge would relieve pressure in the Anchorage home market
that presently has only one direction to build...up. Across this
potential bridge lay thousands of acres of land for homes, businesses
3) It would make a capital move to Point MacKenzie or Willow a much
more practical endeavor.
4) The project would make the commute into or out of Anchorage to the
Valley far easier and more convenient.
5) This exciting project would revolutionize Southcentral Alaska's
economy by bringing new jobs and people into the Anchorage and Mat-Su
6) It would provide an additional access to and from Anchorage if the
other points of entry were blocked (i.e. terrorism or natural
Is the bridge worth it? Absolutely.
The naysayer's claim that the mud flats are too unstable and that the
cost would be too much to overcome. But established engineering firms
who have done preliminary studies such as PND Inc. Consulting
Engineers, inform us that beneath the mud and water is bedrock.
Moreover, bridges have been built in France, in China and Japan that
span huge distances over salt water subject to storms and tides. The
technical problems have long been solved so that structurally sound
and safe bridges have been and are being built today.
What of the cost? Like any major construction project, it would be
expensive, but there are ways to defray this cost. First, those very
tides that play at the bottom of the bridge could be used to move
large impellers, which would create electricity. Sale of that power
would offset the bridge cost and maintenance. Second, other great
spans that link large cities across salt water (the Golden Gate for
example), the Knik Arm bridge could be set up with a toll one way.
Between electrical generation and tolls, the bridge would eventually
pay for itself and then pay for its maintenance. This time the
taxpayer would have it easy.
Finally, I present the best reason to build a Knik Arm bridge: It
would save lives. Remember the notorious reputation in the '70's and
'80's of the old bridges along the Glenn Highway between Anchorage and
the Valley across the Knik and Matanuska Rivers? In the winter these
bridges frequently killed people who lost control on the ice and fog
and crashed into the bridges or other cars, akin to William Holden and
his fellow pilots in "The Bridges of Toko-Ri"—death by poor design
instead of enemy fire.
That ceased when the bridges were rebuilt in the early '90's. Now they
are wider and well lit. I am unaware of a single death related to
their dark, icy disorder since then.
Is the proposed Knik Arm bridge worth building? Definitely. Let's do
it. Here is where a "limited government" ought to do what is right.
Representative Kohring is a six-term House member,
and serves the
Mat-Su in the Alaska Legislature