I’ll get straight to it: The Knik bridge is an ego-driven boondoggle benefiting a handful of consultants and the legacy delusions of a few politicians. Let’s think long-term and big picture: How does Alaska compete in the world economy? My hunch is that it’s not by building bridges to swamps and farmland.
Lack of developable land in Anchorage is a red herring – don’t fall for it. Could someone please point me to a start-up company that failed in Anchorage because of “lack of developable land.” Somehow places that truly do lack land - Singapore, Manhattan, Hong Kong have managed to create enormous wealth in very little space.
We win, or at least, give ourselves a chance of winning, by properly educating our people. It’s not sexy, but time and again, dynamic universities foster innovation, create jobs, and attract capital - whether it’s Boston’s Route 128 tech corridor around Harvard and MIT, Silicon Valley near Stamford and Berkeley, the technology cluster around the University of Texas at Austin, the Research Triangle around Duke and U.N.C. in North Carolina. Instead of building bridges that keep planners employed and politicians’ egos puffed, let’s put a $150 million into program areas where U.A.A. has a fighting chance to compete globally: engineering, geophysics, alternative energy.
You do this in a few steps: Build world-class facilities. Pay professors well. Support graduate students. Attract the best undergraduates you can find. Many of these people will leave, but some will stay to start their own companies. Companies that will contribute a lot more to Alaska’s post-oil future than a narrow bridge to a nearby swamp.