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March 13, 2004

Local News at National Expense

Readers outside of Rhode Island might not be but so interested to hear that the old Jamestown bridge is finally coming down:

The State Planning Council voted unanimously yesterday to move ahead with demolition, and authorized spending to cover the increase in costs from $13.5 million to $20 million.

There is, however, a national angle to this story, by way of a Republican who long ago lost my vote to return to Washington for the next term:

U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, who secured $5 million in federal funds this year to raze the bridge, and the North Kingstown and Jamestown Town Councils sent letters to the planning council supporting demolition. ...

Federal money will cover 80 percent of the cost; the rest will come from the state. (The $20-million project includes about $300,000 to move the island's emergency water line from the old bridge, Capaldi said.)

By my calculations, one could argue that the demolition will wind up costing Americans hundreds of billions of dollars:

ANOTHER NICE thing about McConnell: From his seat on the Appropriations Committee, he finds bacon for his friends to bring home. He called Chafee on Nov. 17 to say he had $5 million in a billfor the demolition of the abandoned Jamestown Bridge.

The news was a respite from Chafee's worrying over the biggest domestic issue of the year, the Medicare bill. Chafee had supported the Senate version of the bill in June, as a flawed but worthy downpayment on his promise to seek drug benefits for the elderly. ...

Mr. Bush was on the way to winning his Medicare bill, and Chafee had been with the Republicans when it counted.

Chafee walked off the Senate floor into the tile-inlaid hallway that points to the Capitol steps. Half a dozen reporters closed in for the senator's explanation.

"I did not sell my vote," Chafee volunteered.

But would Chafee's help for the party win him tangible dividends from a grateful leadership? Would there be more local pork where the Jamestown Bridge demolition money came from?

"You bet," said McConnell. "You bet. We very much appreciated that vote," he said.

Posted by Justin Katz at March 13, 2004 12:41 AM