Despite claims that earmarks for the ‘bridges to nowhere’ were eliminated, Alaska has spent more than $71 million in federal funds on the two bridges:
The Gravina Island bridge is a $304 million project that would serve an island of 50 people, who can already access the nearby city of Ketchikan, Alaska, via a five-minute ferry ride.
The Knik Arm Crossing project will build a 1.6-mile long bridge and 18 miles of connecting roads at a cost of nearly $1.6 billion.
While the designation for the earmarks changed in 2006, funding for the ‘bridges to nowhere’ was included in funding for various infrastructure projects and Alaska chose to use or reserve the money for these two bridges specifically. With Republican leaders like Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) saying Republicans had become “a party on the Bridge to Nowhere” and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) explaining “often, taxpayers’ money is spent unwisely on items like bridges to nowhere” House Democrats offered Republicans an opportunity to stop taxpayer money from going to the ‘bridges to nowhere.’ During consideration of the Surface Transportation Extension Act of 2011 (HR 662), Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) offered a Motion to Recommit to:
Rescind all remaining funds – nearly $183 million – providing for planning, design, and construction of the Gravina Island and the Knik Arm bridges in Alaska – the “Bridges to Nowhere.”
Prohibit the use of any funds provided under the Surface Transportation Extension Act to finance these projects.
Reduce the deficit by approximately $160 million over the next decade according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.
Rep. Polis explained to his colleagues, “we have a choice-we can vote to continue these most egregious earmarks or we can stand by our words, our vows, and values and vote for this amendment and finally put an end to wasteful spending and pet projects”:
All House Republicans chose to continue funding the ‘bridges to nowhere’, with the Motion to Recommit failing by a vote of 181-246.