Vision of a Bridge to Matanuska-Susitna Borough is Becoming a Reality
Bridge would run at state's expense until it generates enough money from toll fees
ANCHORAGE - The vision of building a bridge from Anchorage to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough has been around since the 1930's and now that vision is closer to becoming a reality.
But it will be at the state’s expense until it can generate enough money on its own from toll fees to cover operational costs.
“The private sector will build a bridge for us, but they need a little bit of collateral that we've got skin in the game too,” said Shannon McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority (KABATA).
Lawmakers are considering a bill that would set aside a $150 million reserve fund or a line of credit for the proposed Knik Arm crossing.
The authority estimates that the total project would cost $1 billion, which includes 18 miles of road over the course of 35 years.
“People are definitely willing to pay for tolls partially to save gas, but also because we're going to see a lot of growth on that western side,” said McCarthy.
Those opposed to the idea of a bridge said the plan doesn't factor in unforeseen costs.
“The toll structure and how its set up really just doesn't make sense if the toll revenue doesn't come in the state is going to be on the hook,” said Bob French, president of the Government Hill Community Council.
KABATA said it's too soon to speculate.
“If traffic is a little slower at first or not as much truck traffic as we expected, there's a lot of wiggle room in there to still stay in line in terms of the revenues that were going to generate,” McCarthy said.
Supporters said it would boost the economy in Point MacKenzie and help relieve traffic on the Glenn Highway, while critics say it's a waste of money.
“The only thing the bridge is going to do is change where people choose to live,” said French. “Obviously if the bridge isn't built nobody is going to build their house 35 miles down the Knik Goose Bay Road.”