JUNEAU, Alaska – Gov. Sarah Palin ordered state transportation officials Friday to abandoned the "bridge to nowhere" project that became a nationwide symbol of federal pork-barrel spending.
The $398 million bridge would have connected Ketchikan, on one island in southeastern Alaska, to its airport on another nearby island.
"Ketchikan desires a better way to reach the airport, but the $398 million bridge is not the answer," Palin said in a news release.
She directed the transportation department to find the most "fiscally responsible" alternative for access to the airport.
Ketchikan is Alaska's entry port for northbound cruise ships that bring more than 1 million visitors yearly. Every flight into Gravina Island requires a 15-minute ferry ride to reach the more densely populated Revillagigedo Island.
Sen. Ted Stevens and Rep. Don Young championed the project through Congress two years ago, securing more than $200 million for the bridge between Ketchikan, on Revillagigedo Island, and Gravina Island.
Under mounting political pressure over pork projects, Congress stripped the earmark -- or stipulation -- that the money be used for the airport, but still sent the money to the state for any use it deemed appropriate.
The state took much of that for other projects, and Palin said Friday the Ketchikan project was $329 million short of full funding.
"Much of the public's attitude toward Alaska bridges is based on inaccurate portrayals of the projects here. But we need to focus on what we can do, rather than fight over what has happened," she said.
Just last month, presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said pet projects could have played a role in a Minnesota bridge collapse that killed 13 people earlier this year.
"Maybe if we had done it right, maybe some of that money would have gone to inspect those bridges and other bridges around the country," McCain told a group of people in a town-hall style meeting in Ankeny, Iowa.
"Maybe the 200,000 people who cross that bridge every day would have been safer than spending $233 million of your tax dollars on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."
A spokeswoman from Young's office said he would have no comment. Stevens' office did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.
Palin, a Republican, won the Alaska governorship last fall after defeating Gov. Frank Murkowski in the GOP primary. Stevens and Young are also Republicans.