The as-yet-unbuilt Gravina Island bridge would connect the Alaskan city of Ketchikan to an island that holds the city’s airport (plus a few other residents besides); the two are, currently, linked only by ferry. Due to the very low population of the island coupled with the project’s enthusiastic support from former governor Sarah Palin, the proposed bridge is held up as a prime example of wasteful pork-barrelling, having been dubbed the “Bridge to Nowhere”.
Looking at it, however, it seems to me as though the presence of the airport would be sufficient justification for the bridge all on its own, even if the island were otherwise completely uninhabited:
- Transportation links between cities and their airports are generally considered eminently worthwhile investments, even if they serve nothing else, simply due to the degree by which they ease travel between the city and what, in Alaska, at least, is frequently the city’s main - or even only - link to the outside world at large.
- Secondly, and, perhaps, more importantly, the lack of a bridge seriously degrades safety at the airport, by making it impossible for outside emergency forces to render timely aid in the event of an accident beyond the ARFF units’ ability to handle. This has actually happened at least once; in 1976, Alaska Airlines Flight 60 crashed on landing, and the Ketchikan ARFF units were unable to effectively fight the fire from the burning aircraft. The city fire department sent men and machines to help, but, delayed by the need to take the ferry, they did not arrive until 21 minutes after the crash, right as the last of the surviving occupants was being evacuated (fortunately, only one person died, and from impact forces, not fire).
What am I missing?