October 20, 2005

A Footbridge Too Far

Footbridge to Nowhere
The Bridge to Nowhere lunacy has the blogosphere, the TV poonditi, and the radio talkers all a-twitter. Everyone loves the story about buying everyone at the 'other end' of the proposed bridge a Lear Jet for the same cost. It is a perfect example of timing being everything in political polemics.

They have had the pork barrel rolling in Congress since forever. This isn't even the first idiotic pork barrel bridge. In fact we have our own idiot pork barrel bridge story right here in Nebraska. Nebraska's pork-barrel bridge never raised a ruckus like the Ketchikan - Gravina bridge has. There was no Coburn Amendment , the fate of which is still undecided, despite its sensibility. Kevin Aylward's take on this at Wizbang inspired this blast from the pork-barrel past

When Nebraska's Senator Bob Kerrey decided his political career had hit a wall (read: Viet-Nam atrocity stories surfaced), he left Nebraska a chunk of pork to remember him by. It was to be a footbridge across the Missouri River. Why Kerrey thought Nebraskans would want to walk to Iowa, nobody knows. It started off getting roundly razzed. Most folks here (read: Nebraska Republicans) were sick of Bob Kerrey.

First, Reason.com. tried to point out the stupidity of it. They thought it would cost a mere $4 million, and illustrated it with this little comparison:
The next time you go to the ballpark, imagine the seats are filled with 42,321 low-income, taxpaying spectators, each with an adjusted gross income of between $3,000 and $5,000 -- students, part-timers, and the working poor. Then hold on to your hot dog and think about this: All of the federal income taxes paid by everyone in that stadium over the entire 7-month baseball season will go to build a footbridge in Omaha.
Also in April of 2001, OmahaRiverFront.com touted the bridge at Missouri River News , saying it will be, "among one of the longest pedestrian bridges in the nation". But the price mentioned was now $17 Million.
The bridge is being funded by a $17 million federal grant obtained by former U.S. Senator Bob Kerry, a $1.7 million federal planning grant, $1.5 million each from the states of Nebraska and Iowa, and $1 million from the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District. It is expected to be completed sometime in 2003.
Next, in 2004, it finally came time to let the bids for this fabulous footbridge to Iowa. By now it is become:
The futuristic bridge, with its two suspension towers designed to look like giant sails, was supposed to redefine Omaha's skyline and symbolize the cooperation between Omaha and Council Bluffs. It was proposed as a $22.6 million project
Only two bids were submitted. The low bid was $44,942,000. The other bid was $50,286,498 . Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey, feigning surprise, noted that, "It missed by so far it's mind-boggling" and concluded that the "city doesn't have enough money to build the project for the $45 million low bid". The Nebraska Footbridge to Nowhere story still drags on, and won't die until the speculators, developers and pols have milked it to death. Bad timing.
Update: From Power Line: The Coburn Amendment fails 82 - 15 - the pork barrel is intact.

Update II: A hysterical Senator Stevens of Alaska threatened Omaha's Joslyn Art Museum parking lot pork to protect his bridge pork. Michael Yanney, Joslyn director, defended the museum parking pork and even asked for seconds, saying: "I think we’ve got to spend considerably more taxpayer money on cultural activities,” he said. “Kids need culture. I don’t think the private sector can possibly afford to do all the cultural activities by themselves." Read about it in the Omaha World Herald, quick, before they archive it. OWH notes that Nelson and Hagel "came down on opposite sides of the fiscal tempest". Yanney thanked Nelson for pulling our pork out of the fire.

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