Washington, D.C. – Rep Don Young (R-AK) was awarded the Golden Fleece Award today by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a budget watchdog organization that gives this award to extreme cases of wasteful government spending. The fleece was awarded for Rep.Young’s efforts to sell taxpayers a $190 million bridge to a sparsely populated island in Alaska.
“Rep. Young’s $190 million bridge to nowhere is taking taxpayers for a ride,” said Shannon Collier, Policy Analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense. “This gold-plated bridge has been brought to you courtesy of the Alaska pork barrel express.”
The proposed bridge would connect the town of Ketchikan, Alaska on Revillagigedo Island to Gravina Island by way of Pennock Island. This project would also build an additional 3.2 miles of road between the bridge and the Ketchikan Airport on Gravina Island. With only 13,782 Ketchikan Gateway Borough residents, that’s a cost of at least $13,786 per person. The new bridge would replace existing ferry access to an island where few people live and forests are pristine.
This bridge would enable the timber industry to access 37 million board feet of old growth timber in the Tongass National Forest, and open the remainder of the island to further development. “This bridge is really just corporate welfare to timber companies in their search for cheap, taxpayer subsidized forests,” continued Collier.
There are concerns that the bridge will harm the area’s booming recreation and tourism industry, by undercutting revenue from lucrative cruise ship dockings, floatplane tours, and water-based recreation
“There are simpler and much more cost effective ways to make airport travel more convenient, while also avoiding major safety concerns and saving hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars,” explains Collier.
Still in the planning stages, the proposed bridge project has not yet reached the point of no return for federal taxpayers. The federal funds that have already been spent on engineering and environmental impact studies pale in comparison to the amount taxpayers will have to shell out in construction and maintenance costs should the project continue.
From 1975 to 1988, Senator William Proxmire issued a monthly Golden Fleece Award that highlighted a specific example of a “wasteful, ridiculous or ironic use of the taxpayer’s money” in order to galvanize public opinion against wasteful spending. The awards helped save millions of dollars by causing targeted programs to be curtailed, modified or canceled, and by putting government officials on notice to prevent future waste.
The Golden Fleece Award is the famous waste-busting award that former Wisconsin Senator Proxmire asked Taxpayers for Common Sense to revive in 2000. This is the third Golden Fleece award presented since 1988, when Senator Proxmire retired from the Senate after 31 years. The revival of the Golden Fleece Award is sponsored by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a national budget watchdog organization. Senator Proxmire is Honorary Chair of the group’s Advisory Committee.