Money wasted on new Tacoma Narrows bridge

As if the impending Tacoma Narrows bridge tolls weren’t enough out of the public’s pocket, the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) is hosting an all-out opening ceremony — to the tune of more than $260,000.

Hasn’t enough taxpayer money been wasted on a bridge that’s just going to bottle neck traffic as soon as the lanes go back to two on either side? With tolls of $3, you’re not getting off the Kitsap Peninsula unless you can pay. Of course, you can drive around, but with current gas prices you’d be spending more money, not to mention a couple more hours.

Now, more money is being spent on a July 15 ceremony so that everyone involved can pat each other on the backs and say what good a job they did. The bridge has taken years to build and 3.5 million work hours to construct, but $260,000 to commemorate all of the hard work is a little extreme and a waste of money.

There have been sponsorship pledges and in-kind services donated for the ceremony which, to date, total about $70,000. That’s where the budget should have been cut off. But it’s obvious that $70,000 just wasn’t enough.

Even more ridiculous than dropping a couple thousand dollars for a party for a bridge, is what the money is being used to buy. The single most expensive item on the list of exorbitant purchases is $89,000 for “professional services,” further described as “event planning services from on-call event planning consultant,” according to WSDOT’s Web site.

How much does it really take for someone to sketch out a plan of what’s going where and who’s doing what? That $89,000 could be used for far more valuable services than a party consultant. How ’bout the road or ferry fund or maybe it could have been put toward the sky-high price of building the bridge? If all of the WSDOT officials put their heads together, it’s probable they could have come up with some type of party outline and saved the thousands of dollars being wasted.

Other thousand-dollar expenses include $75,000 for public safety which will go toward uniformed officers and emergency management support. The cost also includes portable restrooms, barricades and equipment including radio rental. Of course, the state couldn’t do without spending $28,000 in insurance to protect itself from liability — just in case a party-goer gets a little too excited over a bright and shiny new bridge. Add on $14,500 for stages, ribbons and scissors, tents for shade, a sound system, rental trucks and T-shirts for volunteers; $16,000 for promotional materials (because a giant bridge coming up out of the water isn’t enough publicity) which includes self-guided tour and site programs; $31,000 for transportation and access; and $8,000 for site logistics and you’ve got a lump sum of money wasted on a celebration.

The real celebration should be when commuters actually find out if this new, $849 million bridge actually increases traffic flow. Get commuters home an hour earlier than usual and there’s the real party.

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