We could have had the Tacoma Narrows bridge handed to us as a gift. Instead, the state paid $700 million and is now charging tolls for the first time.
What a country! Or perhaps I should say, what a state? Washington is celebrating the opening of its brand new, $700 million Tacoma Narrows Bridge. And I must say that, for a state-funded project, $700 million for a mile-long plus bridge sounds pretty frugal. I congratulate our usually wasteful and profligate state government. Considering the estimates bandied about for replacing the 520 floating bridge across Lake Washington, I would have guessed that a new Tacoma Narrows bridge would have cost several times that much.
And one more thing – bridge users are paying tolls. That means that less comes out of my pocket and the greater burden for building and maintaining the bridge will fall upon those who actually use it. I don’t believe that I have ever driven across the old Tacoma Narrows Bridge and I consider it quite likely that I will never use the new one.
The only thing that could have made me happier would be if the bridge were free, there were no tolls and, as a bonus, the northwest power grid were flooded with great bushels full of megawatts of clean, green electricity.
Am I dreaming? Been smoking something, Costello, you might ask? No and no. And no to any other speculations regarding any altered mental conditions. What I describe above was in fact the deal that was offered to the state 7 years ago when plans for replacing the Tacoma Narrows Bridge were on the drawing board.
A Vancouver, B.C. company, Blue Energy Canada, approached former governor Gary Locke’s office 6 years ago and offered to build a brand spanking new Tacoma Narrows Bridge in exchange for the rights to harness the electrical generating potential of the powerful tidal currents that flow through the narrows daily.
This was no pie-in-the-sky proposal. The project would have relied upon proven technologies that were widely in use in a number of other countries. All the state had to do to get a free bridge and oodles more carbon dioxide free electricity without splitting an atom or a salmon fingerling was to say “yes.”
Gary Locke said “no.”
Gary Locke’s energy advisor, David Danner, declared, “I don't think the proposal is ready for prime time. There's (sic) going to be transmission issues. There's (sic) going to be shoreline issues. There's (sic) going to be (State Environmental Policy Act) issues."
If anyone ever wonders why I can’t take anthropogenic global warming seriously, it’s because liberals don’t take it seriously themselves. Whether it’s Ted Kennedy and John Kerry opposing wind farms within sight of Martha’s Vineyard, the playpen for America’s most prominent limousine liberals, or Al Gore burning more coal in a month heating one of his three mansions than most people burn in a year, the left simply doesn’t treat energy seriously. They demand hair shirt solutions for those of us who can’t afford to buy carbon offsets, while dismissing legitimate solutions, such as tidal power or nuclear energy.
And, in the case of the Tacoma Narrows, not even a free bridge and extravagant promises of environmental responsibility would close the deal. There were no “crush points” in the design that would have killed fish. If a whale or a seal approached, sensors would detect it and shut down the system until the animal moved away.
“Anything larger than a beach ball” would shut the system down promised the company’s president and CEO, Martin Burger.
As a consequence, the state is out $700 million and drivers have to fork over between $1.75 and $3.00 for the privilege of crossing the bridge. And, the northwest power grid has 440 fewer megawatts (enough to nourish 1/3 of Seattle’s power demands) to distribute or sell to other regions.
Ironically, the electricity-generating potential of the Tacoma Narrows was rediscovered two years ago, when the city of Tacoma commissioned a study by the Electric Power Research Institute.
"We want to become the preeminent utility when it comes to tidal and wave generation. I’m optimistic we will be on the leading edge," said Tacoma Power superintendent, Steve Klein.
If I were in charge, every toll receipt would have a reminder of Gary Locke’s dismissal of the free bridge. One could say that it’s just water under the bridge. But it’s worth recalling the fecklessness of the past when deciding whom to cast votes for in the future.