Sunday, May 03, 2009

Anchorage Running Out Of Developable Land, Knik Arm Bridge Needed To Open Up Point Mackenzie, And Only Dan Sullivan Supports The Bridge

Most Anchorage voters already know that on the issue of the proposed Knik Arm Bridge, Dan Sullivan supports it, while Eric Croft opposes it. So if you think building the Knik Arm Bridge is essential not only to the economic future of Anchorage, but also to optimize the land transportation grid of South Central Alaska, Sullivan is the natural choice in the May 5th mayoral runoff election.

So the only remaining question - is the Knik Arm Bridge really important? Chris Stephens is a local associate broker specializing in commercial and investment real estate. And the Anchorage Daily News published his column about the newly-released Anchorage Industrial Land Assessment report, which provides an in-depth analysis of whether the amount of industrial land in Anchorage is adequate for the next 20 years. The report was produced by Economic & Planning Systems Inc. for the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), and it concludes that Anchorage is critically short of industrial land.

How short? The baseline projection shows a need for 720 acres of industrial land through 2030. But only 431 acres without soil limitations are available in Anchorage, including the land north to Eklutna, leaving a shortage of 289 acres. Optimization of industrial land use could increase the available land by 166 to 331 acres, but this would give us barely enough even in the best-case scenario.

Protecting industrial land from other uses is addressed in the proposed change in land-use regulations, Title 21. Under the existing code, industrial-zoned land may be used for other purposes such as retail. The proposed change will restrict industrial-zoned land use to industrial only. But the proposed changes in Title 21, while preserving industrial land, would be at the expense of other land uses, reducing their supply and driving up their prices, and does nothing to solve the underlying problem, which is that we are short on land. On the other hand, if industrial land is not protected, then industry would more likely shift to Mat-Su, where more industrial land is available, and cheaper.

Astoundingly, the study does not recommend considering adding to the supply of industrial land through construction of the Knik Arm Bridge to open up land across the inlet. Unfortunately, the bridge has become a political football. In April, regional transportation planners took initial steps to remove the bridge from the list of approved projects. If finalized, that would block needed federal funding of the bridge. The planners felt the bridge would use up funds needed more for other projects.

Chris Stephens believes that the Knik Arm Bridge is the most logical solution. While a bridge will use money that could be used for other projects, ignoring this possible solution to our land shortage has a very high cost that might well be greater than the benefits of projects that the bridge money might fund. Opening up land over at Point Mackenzie will not only provide an outlet for industrial development, but for additional residential development as well. This would reduce the pressure on Anchorage's treasured parklands.

The Knik Arm Bridge, as currently projected, is not perfect. Routing the southern terminus directly through Government Hill and into Downtown is not the smartest course of action; it would bisect Government Hill, diminishing the quality of life and property values there, and disgorge too much traffic directly into an already-saturated Downtown. However, routing the southern terminus through either Boniface Road or Hiland Drive are both viable alternatives which should be pushed more aggressively. These alternatives might make a key opponent of the bridge, Downtown Assemblyman Patrick Flynn, more supportive of the project.

By the way, Dan Sullivan and Eric Croft squared off in their last major debate on Saturday evening. Moderator Jason Moore was smart enough to give them a long leash and allow them to extensively interact with one another. Croft persistently tried to nail down Sullivan on his specific sales tax proposal, and Sullivan just as persistently maintained that he intends to find out from the community the potential impacts before he supports any specific proposal. The four videos of the debates are posted on the KTUU website, on the main page.

Both Eric Croft and Dan Sullivan obviously care about the community and have extensive records of public service. Both are second-generation politicians. But during a time of financial uncertainty, we need a mayor who will focus on making do more with what we already have rather than spend money on unnecessary ruffles and flourishes. Dan Sullivan fits the bill better than Eric Croft, and Sullivan is who I'm supporting. Even the Anchorage Daily News supports Sullivan. In addition, Planned Parenthood has also endorsed Eric Croft; that's just another reason to support Dan Sullivan.

But regardless of who you support, get out and vote on May 5th. Anchorage teems with polling stations; there is no excuse not to vote. Election information can be found HERE. Information on candidates at the following links:

-- Dan Sullivan:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- December 2007 press release outlining his vision HERE.
---- KTUU Channel 2 profile with video HERE.
---- Anchorage Press profile on Sullivan HERE.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.
---- List of individual contributors to Sullivan's campaign HERE.
-- Eric Croft:
---- Official campaign website HERE.
---- Myspace website HERE.
---- KTUU Channel 2 profile with video HERE.
---- Anchorage Press profile on Croft HERE.
---- Alaska Dispatch profile on Croft HERE.
---- KSKA Interview accessible HERE.
---- List of individual contributors to Croft's campaign (3-7 thru 3-28) HERE.


  1. Where is the list of individual contributors to Sullivan's campaign?

  2. Whoops! Valid point. Go HERE to review it.