There's money in a state highway budget that passed the Washington House Thursday to study a one-of-a-kind possible toll bridge fashioned out of retired Navy aircraft carriers.
The idea comes from Washington State Representative Jesse Young. And he's totally serious about it.
"I know that people from around the world would come to drive across the deck of an aircraft carrier bridge, number one,” Young said. “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."
Young proposed to link Bremerton and Port Orchard, Washington across Sinclair Inlet. He has his eye on two retired aircraft carriers moored at the naval shipyard in Bremerton.
Young said three carriers laid end-to-end could fully span the inlet, but he prefers a two carrier design with on-ramps and a span across the gap in the middle.
However, a Navy spokesman threw cold water on the idea, saying "neither of those ships are currently available."
Speaking from the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C., spokesman Chris Johnson said the USS Independence will be transferred from Bremerton to a ship recycling company in Texas later this year. He said the Navy plans to hold the USS Kitty Hawk in reserve until the new supercarrier Gerald Ford is fully operational.
Johnson was not encouraging about the prospect of Washington state getting its hands on the Kitty Hawk in a few years because he said Navy policy requires reuse as a museum or disposal at a ship breaking yard.
Representative Young said the Navy's stance does not deter him. "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 wrote in a follow up email.
The feasibility study Young proposed would cost $90,000 and has a deadline of December 1, 2015 for submission back to the Washington Legislature. There is a possibility it could be stripped out of the final 2015-17 state transportation budget during upcoming negotiations to reconcile the differing spending blueprints drafted by the House and Senate.
On Facebook, Kitsap Sun readers posted colorful reactions when the aircraft carrier bridge concept was floated ranging from wholehearted support to amazed disdain.
"Great idea" wrote several commenters who noted a bridge could eliminate a bottleneck and reduce traffic accidents on a dangerous stretch of current highway through Gorst. But critics groused that using decommissioned Vietnam-era carriers would be impractical or "idiotic."
Perhaps the most original response came from Steve Longmate who suggested the catapult launching systems on the carrier decks "could be used for the Express lanes."
Full text of budget proviso:
$90,000 of the motor vehicle account—state appropriation is for a study of the feasibility of constructing a military tribute bridge that spans Sinclair Inlet and that incorporates one or more decommissioned aircraft carriers. As a part of this study, the joint transportation committee must:
(i)Determine the cost and process associated with the state's acquisition of a decommissioned aircraft carrier; and (ii) Identify potential engineering options for incorporating decommissioned aircraft carriers into a bridge. A report on the study must be submitted to the transportation committees of the legislature by December 1, 2015.