U.S. Gives Anchorage $1.5M for Bus Stop

The city of Anchorage, Alaska is faced with an unusual problem: How to spend $1.5 million in federal money for a bus stop.

U.S. Gives Anchorage $1.5M for Bus Stop (AP)

Tom Wilson is faced with a problem many city administrators would envy: How to spend $1.5 million on a bus stop. Wilson, Anchorage’s director of public transportation, has all that money for a new and improved bus stop outside the Anchorage Museum of History and Art thanks to Republican Sen. Ted Stevens — fondly referred to by Alaskans as “Uncle Ted” for his prodigious ability to secure federal dollars for his home state.

[…]

We have a senator that gave us that money and I certainly won’t want to appear ungrateful,” he said. At the same time, he does not want the public to think the city is wasting the money. So “if it only takes us $500,000 to do it, that’s what we will spend.” That is still five to 50 times the typical cost of bus stop improvements in Anchorage.

The money was contained in a $388 billion spending bill passed by Congress last November, when Stevens was head of the Senate Appropriations Committee. Citizens Against Government Waste has ranked Stevens No. 1 every year since it began calculating lawmakers’ proficiency at bringing home pork in 2000. In 2005, Stevens brought home more than $645 million, or $984.85 for each Alaskan, the group says.

Robert Byrd would have won that title more than a dozen times in his day. Indeed, the outrage isn’t so much that we’re paying 150 times the going rate for a bus stop–although that’s admittedly a bad thing–but that we’re paying for a bus stop at all. How in the world is that related to even a loose interpretation of the responsibility of the federal government?

Further, even if one thinks the Feds should be in the business of handing out largess, one would think Anchorage would have better uses for $1.5 million. Surely, it has bridges that need rebuilding, roads that need building or refurbishing, schools that need roofing, and so forth. Some of those things even involve interstate commerce.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Kappiy says:

    How in the world is that related to even a loose interpretation of the responsibility of the federal government?

    Are you saying that the Feds should only be involved in transportation projects that occur between state borders?

    A functional, multi-modal transportation system is essential for the economic health of the country.

    The main problem with our transportation policy is that there is no cohesive national strategy. As the Anchorage project suggests, our transportation “policy”–for decades–has merely been a free-for-all pork fest where members of Congress bring federal money to their districts without regional–let alone national–coordination and a serious debate about what the US transportation system should look like.

    Of course transportation is, in reality, a function of land use. Land use is regulated at the municipal level; but it is not a stretch to argue that one of the reasons our post-War suburbs look the way they do has been because municiplaities have develop policies with a view to get fdereal money.




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  2. McGehee says:

    A functional, multi-modal transportation system is essential for the economic health of the country.

    Doesn’t necessarily make it a constitutional expenditure. Just because something’s a good idea doesn’t mean the Constitution allows it.

    In fact, that confusion right there defines the battle over judicial nominations.




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  3. Kappiy says:

    McGehee-

    The constitutionality is an interesting question. The intersate highway system–probably the greatest public works program in US history and the origin of the mroe recent transportation bills–was conceived by Eisenhower as a “national defense” strategy.

    I am not sure if there is any case law challenging the constitutionality of federal transportation spending.




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  4. ken says:

    Actually the interstate highway system was first concieved by FDR as a way to improve national commerce and provide jobs. It never got off the ground until Ike repackaged it as an issue of national defense.




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  5. McGehee says:

    I am not sure if there is any case law challenging the constitutionality of federal transportation spending.

    Who’s going to go to court to stop the money spigot?




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  6. TJIT says:

    Kappiy,

    You skated right by the important part of the. The feds are going to be spending 1.5 million dollars to build a simple @$^&*% bus stop.




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