Howard Rich's Blog

April 10, 2009

Bridges Too Far?

Filed under: Headlines — howierich @ 3:48 pm

From Invesotr’s Business Daily

Spending: Stimulus money is being spent to build a bridge between two parts of Microsoft’s corporate campus. Money’s also available for suicide-prevention fencing on an Ohio bridge — just in time for taxpayers.

The stimulus package is designed to fund already planned “shovel ready” projects that states and cities say they cannot afford to complete in this economy.

The town of Redmond, Wash., had such a project on its wish list when it applied for stimulus funds to complete a bridge over a freeway dividing the town.

Redmond Mayor John Machione said it would create jobs as well as “connecting our technical sector with our retail and commercial sectors so people can cross the freeway to shop and help traffic flow.”

The “technical sector” he speaks of largely consists of Microsoft Corp.

And many of the people using the bridge will be Microsoft employees. The bridge was originally going to cost $26 million. The cost increased to $36 million after it was decided to build the bridge on a diagonal to connect Microsoft’s original east campus with a newer west campus on the other side of the highway.

Microsoft is picking up $17.5 million of the tab.

But the question is, why should federal taxpayers be asked to fund any part of this bridge? Surely Redmond gets enough local tax revenues and Microsoft has enough financial self-interest to finance the bridge out of petty cash.

Bloomberg reports Microsoft is in the midst of a $1 billion expansion that includes seven new buildings, food venues, a minispa, its own post office and one of the largest parking garages in North America.

“This is $11 million where we are substituting public money for private money, and that means there’s some other project that would have a greater benefit than a bridge to Microsoft that’s not being built,” said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. The state of Washington will pay the remaining cost.

Michael Ennis of the Washington Policy Center, a Seattle-based not-for-profit group that advises policymakers, said, “The project would have moved forward regardless of having the federal money or not, so it doesn’t have any additional benefit to the economy.”

Meanwhile, in Ohio $7.5 million in stimulus dollars are allocated for improvements to the All-American Bridge in Akron.

Part of that is for fencing on what locals have dubbed the Suicide Bridge. One man jumped to his death this year and two people killed themselves that way in 2008.

We are all for saving lives, but maybe Akron could use another ambulance or hire a few more paramedics — and pay for it with local and state funds.

Does everything these days have to come from Washington, D.C.?

As it turns out, former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska, who was skewered for pushing his bridge to nowhere, was just a few years early.

In today’s atmosphere of “stimulus” at all costs, his bridge would certainly find funding. Heck, he might even get a second bridge to keep Alaskan Indians employed.

As for Microsoft, someone should tell them taxpayers are already doing enough.

They don’t do Windows.

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