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Feb 10, 2005
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Anchorage gets $1.5 million for bus stop
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Tom Wilson is faced with a problem many city administrators would envy. How to spend $1.5 million on a bus stop?

When done, the bus stop next to the Anchorage Museum of History and Art will be like no other in the city, said Anchorage's director of public transportation.

"It is going to be a showpiece stop," Wilson said.

Wilson has $1.5 million to spend on the bus stop thanks to Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens - commonly referred to by Alaskans as "Uncle Ted" for his ability to secure federal money for his home state.

The money for the bus stop was contained in funding for intermodal transportation facilities in the huge $388 billion government spending bill passed by Congress last November. Stevens was head of the Senate Appropriations Committee at the time.

Citizens Against Government Waste has ranked Stevens No. 1 every year since it began calculating pork per capita in 2000. In 2005, Stevens brought home more than $645 million, or $984.85 for each Alaskan, the group says.

Wilson said he doesn't want the public to think the city is going to waste the bus stop money.

"If it only takes us $500,000 to do it, that's what we will spend," he said.

The bus stop that sits near the museum now is a simple steel and glass, three-sided enclosure. Wilson knows he wants something more attractive and user-friendly, with better lighting and seating. He also likes the idea of heated sidewalks that would remain free of snow and ice. He thinks electronic signs would be nice.

One thing is certain. City and museum officials agree that the bus stop must fit in with the $75 million, grant-funded museum expansion project, which is to be completed in 2009.

"We would like the bus stop to aesthetically fit in," said museum director Pat Wolf. "We would like to help design it."

In fact, architect Jon Kumin and landscape architect Charles Anderson have already offered to help design the bus stop so it fits with the new museum building. Wolf said she hasn't heard back, yet.

"If the bus people don't call us, we're going to call them. We'd like to help them spend $1.5 million," Wolf said.

While Wilson isn't sure how to spend $1.5 million on one bus stop, the museum folks don't see a problem.

"They shouldn't worry. There are good uses for the money," Kumin said. "This is going to be a great bus stop."

He envisions a stop that is compatible with the exterior building materials used for the expansion - a translucent glass with a pattern to provide visual interest.

It's important that the bus stop fit in with the view people will have while standing in what will be a miniforest of 350 birch trees on the vacant lot at the new entrance to the museum, Anderson said.

The trees won't have branches from about 8 feet down to allow museum visitors to look through the trees and onto the busy city street.

It's important that the bus stop not block the view, the landscape architect said.

Widening the sidewalks near the bus stop and creating a rounded intersection corner also would help ease congestion, Wolf said.

If done right, the expanded museum and improved bus stop could anchor a new eastern edge to the downtown, drawing not only more tourists to the museum but shoppers from a nearby mall and workers from the federal building, Wolf said.

That's what Stevens had in mind when he got the $1.5 million, said Stevens' spokeswoman Courtney Boone.

"It is supposed to be a lot more than a bus stop," she said. "It needs to have a way to smoothly transition all these people. That is why the money is earmarked. ... We know from past experience what it takes."

Waiting for the A13 bus, Ronnie San Ramon of Anchorage mulled over what he would do with $1.5 million. With winter still a fresh memory, the answer wasn't hard. He would make the bus stop fully enclosed and heated.

"People in winter are frozen - especially if the bus is late like today," San Ramon said.

Another bus rider who didn't want to give his name summed up his feelings about spending $1.5 million on the stop this way: "That is ridiculous."

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