"We spent $223-million on a bridge in Alaska to an island with 50 people on it."

John McCain on Wednesday, July 25th, 2007 in a speech in Nashua, N.H.

Half-baked Alaska

Make that almost spent.

For critics of the earmarking process, in which lawmakers can assign federal money to favored projects, the so-called "bridge to nowhere" had it all.

The bridge money was written directly into the 2005 highway bill by just one person, then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska.

The law set aside $223-million to build a bridge in Young's home state that would connect the Alaska town of Ketchikan to Gravina Island. Gravina Island has 50 people living on it. Critics seized on the project as a prime example of how the earmark process invites wasteful spending.

There was such a firestorm of criticsm that in November 2005 Congress removed the earmark requirement. Alaska still got the federal transportation money, but the state no longer was required to use it on the bridge.

Nonetheless, McCain continues to speak as if Congress still is requiring that the bridge be built. He says $223-million was "spent" on the bridge, but that's not true. The "bridge to nowhere" never was built.