Here's the letter to the editor* that inspired this post:
"U-Med road would be a lifesaver*[not sure people without an ADN subscription can use this link (let me know if it works for you), but you've got the whole letter above.]
The U-Med road is the one thing that absolutely will save lives. Providence hospital sits right in the middle of this road. If you ever had to get there because of illness or heart attack like me, every second counts. Shortening the amount of time it takes to get to the hospital could save more lives. The money once was already appropriated for this road but the mayor wanted it for the black hole also known as the port. Now the money is there again for this much needed project but guess what? The mayor talks about the deficit and wants this project blocked again for his friends, but at the same time he is in the capital asking for over $200 million for the port. We have already spent hundreds of millions of dollars at the port and there is nothing to show for it. I know where it went, but shhhh — they don’t want you to know. — Richard Wooten Anchorage"
I'm sorry to hear about Mr. Wooten's illness and hope he's better. But his having been sick doesn't change the actual facts. It just distorts his interpretation of them. That's understandable, but policy decisions need look at the big picture. There are lots of questions to raise about this letter, but let's just focus on the "Lifesaver" story.
First, nowadays, we have ambulances with technology that allows the paramedics to start treatment before they get to the hospital. Here's an Edmonton story about their $3.3 million (Canadian) stroke ambulances. But then they have long rides bringing people in from rural areas. That's not an issue that this road would fix. But their ambulances might. You could get five of them for the initial cost of the minimum sized road. That doesn't account for later expansion beyond a two lane road or maintenance of the road - funding that wasn't provided for.
Second, it's not the road that matters, but a host of other issues that get ambulances to people on time and then to the closest hospital. This article discusses some of the turf battles and other administrative issues that cost lives.
Third, and most significant in this case, there's another hospital north of Providence, where patients would be coming from to use this road. Why do ambulances coming from the north even have to go to Providence? Alaska Regional is a short distance to the north of Providence and if time is of the essence, the ambulance should go there.
Let's look at the map.
|Screen shot, with additions, from Google (click to focus)|
To the north, circled in red, is Alaska Regional Hospital. To the south, circled in blue, is Providence. Google says they are 2.9 miles apart via Lake Otis (blue route) and 3.1 miles apart via Bragaw (gray route.) Nine minutes either way.
I've added in an extension to Bragaw in red to Providence from Bragaw and Northern Lights. It wouldn't be significantly shorter than the gray existing route.
People on the Lake Otis route won't be affected because the new road would be longer for them.
Most of the area around there is wooded parkland. There are some health agencies along Northern Lights and East High at the corner of Northern Lights and Bragaw. East High is probably right in the middle between the two hospitals. That would make it, by Google's time estimate, about 4 minutes and 30 seconds from either hospital. Anyone north of East High is probably closer to Regional Hospital.
This road isn't about saving lives. I suspect it's really about Providence's need to dominate the Alaska health care world. Getting one more road close by is part of a much bigger strategy. They've already gotten 40th Avenue pushed through and paid for by the State. They've got lots of other roads wandering through their ever-expanding campus.
The letter writer doesn't mention that all the community councils in the area are strongly opposed to the road. Nor does he mention all the reasons why they are opposed, not the least of which is the cutting through the last big tract of unbroken land that's used for recreation by people and for living by wildlife.
I'd bet that a road through there might cost more lives by adding traffic past East High than it would save by getting people to the hospital faster. There's no proof this road would save lives. The map plus the changes in ambulance technology, plus the existence of Regional to the north, all suggest that this road would not save any lives. Unless Providence just wants the ambulances from the north to pass by Regional. But even then, the new road would be marginally shorter than the existing road.
And the port? Mayor Berkowitz inherited that problem. Sheffield may have wasted tens of millions, maybe even hundreds of millions, but that doesn't mean the port should be abandoned. It still needs to be fixed.
And that funding the writer mentions, was snuck into the budget in the closing hours of the last session without any hearings or opportunity to remove it against the wishes of the legislators from the U-Med district.