What is the 'Bridge to Nowhere'? Infamous Earmark Returns in 2012 GOP Debate

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What is the 'Bridge to Nowhere'? Infamous Earmark Returns in 2012 Debate
The infamous ‘bridge to nowhere’ found its way into the 2012 Republican presidential debate in Arizona Wednesday night, with Mitt Romney bringing up the term to attack Rick Santorum on his history with earmarks.

The infamous 'bridge to nowhere' found its way into the 2012 Republican presidential debate in Arizona Wednesday night, with Mitt Romney bringing up the term to attack Rick Santorum on his history with earmarks.

While talking about the dangers and benefits of earmarks, federal money congressmen seek for home-state projects, Romney brought up the proposed 2006 Ketchikan bridge that has become the symbol of government waste.

While I was fighting to save the Olympics, you were fighting to save the 'bridge to nowhere, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, told Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, on the stage in Mesa, Arizona.

The never-built Ketchikan bridge was a proposed crossing to replace a ferry that connects the southeast town of Ketchikan, Alaska to Gravina Island, where the Ketchikan International Airport is. However, the project was dropped when lawmakers decided it was too costly and unnecessary.

Since then, the bridge has become an example of frivolous federal spending. While earmarks and pork-barrel spending only consist of a slice of the federal budget, many tea partiers argue it's a gateway to corruption, as CNN's John King put it. Proponents of the legislative provision argue that the process is an important constitutional function of Congress.

So what was so awful about the Ketchikan bridge? According to Indian Country Today, Gravina Island has about 50 residents. Ketchikan has about 8,000 residents. The ferry in between the two towns leaves every 30 minutes, or every 15 minutes during peak season, costs $5 per adult with free same-day return and charges $6 per automobile each way.

Hardly an insufficient or costly means of transportation, considering the proposed bridge would have been nearly as long as the Golden Gate, taller than the Brooklyn Bridge, and cost close to a half a billion dollars ($398 million to be exact), wrote Indian Country's staff.

The bridge became an issue once again during the 2008 presidential election, when then-Gov. Sarah Palin, recently tapped to be Sen. John McCain's running mate, said at the Republican convention, I told Congress, thanks but no thanks on that bridge to nowhere.

Palin faced scrutiny for actually endorsing the Ketchikan project in while running for Governor in 2006 and then flip-flopping on the issue after Congress killed its funding in 2007, Wayne Barrett wrote in a 2008 article for the Village Voice.

The bridge to nowhere resurged at the Mesa, Arizona CNN debate as Romney and Santorum bickered over good versus bad earmarks and Romney defending his use of earmarks for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, which he organized.

As Romney chided Santorum for supporting the failed bridge, Santorum struck back at Romney, claiming he was misrepresenting the facts.

He's out there on television ads right now, unfortunately, attacking me for saying that I'm this great earmarker, when he not only asked for earmarks for the [2002] Salt Lake Olympics in the order of tens of millions of dollars, [he] sought those earmarks and used them.

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