Last week Gov. Sean Parnell announced that he intends to pursue construction of the Knik Arm bridge with state and federal funds. The project, managed by the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA), with an estimated construction cost of well over a billion dollars, was the subject of a scathing legislative audit last year.
“It’s time to face the truth about our fiscal situation and put this undertaking on hold,” said Byron Mallott, Democratic candidate for Alaska governor. “There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the governor’s willingness to commit hundreds of millions of state dollars to this project even as the state had to dip into its savings by more than a half-billion dollars for this past fiscal year to balance the budget,” Mallott said.
“State analysts predict that Parnell will have to draw down an additional $2 billion from state savings to cover the budget deficit in the current fiscal year. Alaska is burning through our reserves at such a fast rate that they could be gone by the end of this decade,” Mallott added.
Supporters of the Knik Arm bridge argue that most of the money will come from federal sources. What they don’t say is that federal funding for transportation is capped and that any monies spent on this project will mean less for other projects around the state. “Something as expensive as the Knik Arm Crossing will deny funding for other viable and important projects statewide,” Mallott said.
“Let’s talk frankly about the truth that our falling revenues are eating away at our savings, even as we cut spending. Our opportunity to make course corrections is limited and this is one project that needs a correction before we throw more money at it,” said Mallott. “We are both a resourceful and a resource-rich state. We can have a bright future if we deal with reality. We need a full review of other transportation needs across the entire state.”
The Legislative Audit on the KABATA Project can be read here.(PDF)