When I first heard about Rep. Jesse Young’s idea to create a bridge built out of old aircraft carriers a few weeks ago, I was walking back into a room at the state Capitol in Olympia where Young was talking to Gig Harbor business leaders about it during a lunchtime roundtable meeting.
I quickly did a double take, as I had caught the tail end of what Young was saying as I made my way to my chair. I had to restrain myself from yelling out, “What? You want to do what?”
As a kid who grew up building plastic models of classic Navy jets like the F-14 Tomcat and A-6 Intruder and reading about in fascination how the steam catapults launch the heavy jets from an aircraft carrier, the kid-like creativity of this idea started to really intrigue me. That’s a pretty cool idea, I thought.
Well, Young isn’t just talking about doing it, he’s actually pushing for it. And there is actually money ($90,000 to be exact) in a state highway budget that passed the Washington House last week to study the feasibility of an aircraft carrier toll bridge that would link Bremerton and Port Orchard across Sinclair Inlet.
"I know that people from around the world would come to drive across the deck of an aircraft carrier bridge, number one,” Young told the NW News Network in a story posted on its website last week. “Number two, it's the right thing to do from my standpoint because this is giving a testimony and a legacy memorial to our greatest generation."
While the Navy is not quite as excited about the idea as Young is, our state rep doesn’t seem to care.
"That is the beautiful thing about opportunities… no one ever says they’ll be easy, just that the greater the difficulty the greater the accomplishment," he’s quoted in the NW News Network story.
The construction of the bridge — if it does become a reality — would be an incredible feat of engineering. I’m not sure it would be the safest thing for people to be driving at highway speeds on (from a rubbernecking in fascination standpoint), but it would no doubt put our region on the map.
Young’s proposal even made waves nationally last week when a reporter from The Washington Post posted a blurb about the idea on the newspaper’s website. The article called the carrier bridge a “clever idea.”
I still have a ton of questions — I’m likely not the only one — about the logistics, construction of the thing and if the Navy is willing to even remotely consider the idea, but the thinking behind Young’s proposal illustrates the fact that he is thinking outside the box when it comes to transportation issues.
Bridge tolls and the fact that those of us who live and work on the peninsula are ultimately paying for the bulk of the bridge debt is a huge point of contention for residents and lawmakers representing the region. There is a large contingent of residents and business owners who see the enormous cost overrun on the horizon for the Bertha project in Seattle and worry that the rest of the state’s transportation funds that might possibly alleviate rising bridge tolls will be earmarked to cover that enormous project.
I’m not sure if there is a transportation project or solution out there that can help cut or even eliminate the toll burden for those in this region, but voters have to be excited about the fact that Young is out there swinging for the fences while thinking about his constituency.
Swing away, Jesse.