Monday, January 9, 2012

KABATA Taking Homes & Businesses Before There's A Project?

--- by Rep. Les Gara

Here's the latest bit of news from your friends at KABATA. Folks in Anchorage's oldest neighborhood, Government Hill, are not happy. 

KABATA, even though no project has been approved or funded, has jumped the gun and is already telling people they are buying their homes and businesses (they have the power to condemn Government Hill property so they can build a huge ditch and then a tunnel under Government Hill as part of the Anchorage approach to the Bridge). Spending millions of your money, for a project we don't even know will go forward is wrong, is an assault on homeowners and business owners, and a poor use of public money. Destroying homes and businesses under the threat of a future power of eminent domain, is offensive. They sent letters seeking to buy property to residents and businesses this fall and summer, and have started negotiations. They may have even concluded some sales to condemn homes and businesses by now.

And for context, here are a few facts on the Knik Bridge you may not know, regardless of your position. First, KABATA (the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority) promised a few years back that the Bridge, and hundreds of millions of dollars of approach roads on either side of Knik Arm, and the bridge and tunnel projects needed to get from Anchorage to the bridge start, would all be privately funded. Well, surprise, there is pending legislation now that KABATA has changed its mind, to require the state to subsidize any private company that builds the billion dollar-plus project. If tolls don't cover the cost of building and operating the bridge, the bill requires the state to pay for all the shortfalls - and, really, how many people are going to pay a $10 - $30 toll to drive a bridge that gets them to Wasilla or Palmer more slowly than the Glenn Highway (oh, you didn't know that? 

Yup - the bridge is not designed to cut the commute to the population centers in the Valley). The subsidization costs to Alaskans could reach over a billion dollars. 

No one knows.

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