Sunday, April 12, 2015

How Hard Did Republicans Look To Cut The Budget? $20 Million Bragaw Extension Through University Is Still There

According to a press release I got by email Saturday,
"Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage) proposed recapturing $19.3 million in funds allocated for the U-Med Access Road.

“Nine community councils from across Anchorage oppose this road.   Anchorage doesn’t want this road, Anchorage doesn’t need this road, and Alaska can’t afford this road,” stated Senator Gardner.

Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) offered an amendment to claw back $20 million allocated for the Port Mackenzie Rail extension.  This combined with suspending future obligations of over $80 million will save Alaska approximately $100 million.

“We simply cannot afford another over $100 million mega-project while we are slashing education and putting seniors and kids at risk,” said Senator Wielechowski."
The legislature is whacking school budgets. They're whacking the Alaska Marine Highway, the only 'road' that Southeast Alaska communities have, and many tourists have reservations for this summer.  Yet they have left $20 million on the table for a road the community simply does not want.   And the $20 million Wielechowski proposed to cut, not to mention the future costs these projects would require.

We really need to hear which contractors are hoping to pick up jobs to build the Bragaw extension and why they have such sway with politicians.  We know that DOWL Engineering was in charge of the citizen participation process  and despite overwhelming opposition to the road, they continued to recommend road options.  Yeah, I know, fox guarding the hen house.  We know the $20 million isn't enough to do the road right, just enough to scar the land bad enough that more money will have to be spent to make the road work.   They did get buy-in from UAA and APU and Providence, but that was a complicated and non-public process, so we don't know what kinds of deals they got for going along with the road.  I suspect Providence heads wanted the road all along, and after building the sports center, there were university boosters who wanted the road.  Which is precisely why the people who actually live around the university area should have had more weight.  And should have been allowed to sit in and listen to what the university and hospital said to DOWL. 

But the Republicans aren't hiding their bias to spending to help industry.  From the NewsMiner:
"In a six-minute hearing on the bill, the House Rules Committee extended the $10 million per year tax credit intended for the state’s remaining three refineries to the shuttered Agrium fertilizer plant in House Speaker Mike Chenault’s district. "
Some people have to scrimp, for others, it's "What budget crisis?"


  1. In a political landscape where corporations are real persons, I'd think that Providence and UAA do support this road for any number of reasons, and the records exist, somewhere, as corporations record decisions, after all.

    But I want to look at this differently. As the University-Medical District is critical to good city life, I certainly was among those locally who silently hoped Bragaw was linked to improve access with the universities, hospital and McLaughlin Out North worked with so often. We saw in this conflict drawn between nature and movement, something instead mutually beneficial to a livable city -- assisting the movement of people and ideas to and from this district. To achieve this so nature in the city was preserved is also possible. It would require good design beyond engineering solutions.

    As you well know, the high ground of public interest is often contested as those who seize it are expected to win the day. It's likely your adversaries saw this and chose the work-around available to them. It doesn't preclude, as you assume here, that there isn't another interest this (former) citizen would declare public, if your adversaries were only smart enough to state it well and convincingly.

  2. Jacob, I'd have less objection if they built a tunnel under the land. But that isn't going to happen and this road will spill lots of traffic in front of East High, would crowd the area with through traffic not going to the U or the hospital, and would destroy what I see as Anchorage's Central Park in the future. Trees and other empty spaces that give us local nature and views of the mountains are disappearing fast. This land - as natural land in the center of town - will only become more and more appreciated as time goes by. If it lasts.
    I understand your Out North perspective, but ON has Costco across the street, so there's no shortage of traffic and potential ON audience nearby.

    But my point here was that it's still in the budget while far more pressing needs are being cut.

  3. Steve, pressing problems of state can be wielded by anyone at any time against any budget item. Looking for solutions is at the heart of conflict, isn't it? Yes, underground build may be part of the solution. It means the project would have to wait until it could be built better. While I would find this agreeable, I'm not certain politicians pushed for a fix sooner, would.

    No, my comment and interest with Out North wasn't at all about audience. I would MUCH rather people took to walking, bikes and bus -- at least car-pooling. We lacked parking! If I were planning czar, I would concentrate varied housing concepts and open many more natural spaces in any city. No, my concern was the isolation ON knew with the U-Med campus given our artists having to drive round to get there. It felt silly, a waste of fuel. I'm sure many people driving that route felt the same.

    We were always trying to create more linkages to all three institutions I noted yesterday as we saw it as creatively necessary. Ideas don't only move at the speed of light; they still move best with people gathered together, particularly in the creative world.

    I hold no illusion the real interests in this extension are commuters who simply want to get from Point A to Point B in yet another way. Traffic will increase, but that's its very purpose. That ANC falls to this solution was set when it agreed its sprawl for every little piece of wilderness to be connected necessitating the classic web growth of cities everywhere.

    Market forces are simple things. Footpaths of the human past gave way to crowding roads now. We live with the consequences of movement and population. I dread to think of every teenager's dream to own a car. There lies our problem, Steve, and we do little to nothing to reimagine and reshape that aspiration.

  4. Jacob, we agree on the basics, I think. But I suspect after being in London this long, if you came back, you'd see that the extra half mile (without the extension) is really nothing at all, certainly not worth building a road. And there's a bike trail from 20th to UAA.

    I guess I don't accept the inevitability of market forces being what puts value on everything. It's overpowering, but as long as enough of us point out how it destroys more important values, eventually things will change. The market won't go away, but it will get limited to where it's appropriate.


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