Sarah Palin, Transit Advocate?

John McCain may not be big on public transportation, but as mayor of a small town in Alaska, his running mate Sarah Palin secured millions in federal earmarks for rail and bus projects.

Palin1.JPGThe Washington Post reports that during Palin’s two terms as mayor of Wasilla, when it had a population of 6,700, the town enjoyed a number of transportation-related funding successes, including:

  • $1.9 million for the Wasilla Intermodal Transit Project, to realign rail and bus routes to increase use of public transit in the region.
  • $15 million for a rail project to connect Wasilla with Girdwood, the home town of Sen. Ted Stevens (R).
  • $600,000 to upgrade bus stations.

The story contrasts Palin’s skill at lining up earmarks — with the aid of a lobbyist law firm now tainted by federal corruption charges — against McCain’s professed distaste for "pork barrel" spending. The Post says Palin once supported the infamous "Bridge to Nowhere," a $223 million structure that was to replace ferry service between the town of Ketchikan and Gravina Island, but that she later "reversed course."

Despite her accomplishments for public transit in Wasilla, Grist says Palin has "developed an anti-environmental reputation" since she was elected governor of Alaska less than two years ago. Palin has proposed eliminating the state’s gas tax, and in June told a national TV audience that McCain was "wrong" to oppose drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:

"I think he’s going to evolve into eventually supporting ANWR opening
… I’d like the opportunity to change his mind about ANWR."

Here is Grist’s summary of Palin’s environmental record.

Photo: Wikipedia Commons

  • Shemp

    Book-burning, anti-choice, global-warming-denying fundamentalist.

    I wonder how that Wasilla-Girdwood travel market is coming along?

  • Shemp

    Actually, material in today’s Times is more enlightening than Grist’s bullet points.

    From the lead editorial:

    ” In a speech last June to her former church in Wasilla, Ms. Palin said the war in Iraq was ‘a task that is from God.’ ”

    “In her speech to the Wasilla Assembly of God in June, Ms. Palin said it was ‘God’s will’ that the federal government contribute to a $30 billion gas pipeline she wants built in Alaska.”

  • I just have a feeling that this was more about lining contractors pockets than building good public infrastructure. But show me some transit oriented development in Wasilla and I will have one thing that I don’t hate about this women.

    ONE thing.

  • That’s interesting, Shemp. I read somewhere that she was skeptical of the war — or at least the way it’s being run — as her son is about to be deployed.

    Good point, Susan. At least they weren’t road projects (?).

    There’s also this from the Wasilla Wikipedia entry:

    Charles Wohlforth, in a Frommer’s travel guidebook on Alaska, described Wasilla as “the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots.”

  • I don’t trust her and I don’t believe she supported bus and rail for anything other than pork barrel politics.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The important point here is that state and (particularly) local officials in every kind of place and of every ideology (including the most unlikely) want transit, particularly rail transit, and other place-making investments.

    That’s what’s behind the light rail boom: not transportation cost-benefit, not the environment, place-making. That’s also what’s behind all the suburbs trying to re-create themselves with mixed-use “downtowns.” No one wants to be no place, even right wingers in Alaska.

    All the more reason for those in favor of place making to be wary of more infrastructure resources being allocated at the federal level.

  • Frommer’s description of Wasilla is accurate. Its residents (including some of my family) live there to get away from all the big-city problems of multicultural Anchorage. No, seriously. And then they try to figure out how shorten driving times around the gigantic natural feature (Cook Inlet) they have decided to put between themselves and their jobs (if any):

    http://www.aktransportation.org/mega-projects/the-knik-arm-bridge-mega-project

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