'Microsoft Bridge' turns into a lightning rod

Controversy continues to swirl about an overpass near Microsoft's Redmond headquarters that is slated to receive $11 million through the federal economic-stimulus plan.

A freeway overpass connecting two parts of Microsoft's Redmond headquarters has become a well-traveled road for critics of how the federal government is spending its stimulus dollars.

The "Microsoft Bridge," as it has been dubbed, is slated to receive $11 million in stimulus dollars --money that critics say is a waste, but local and state officials have praised as a prudent use of transportation dollars.

The overpass indeed connects two parts of Microsoft's campus. But as proponents point out, it also connects two parts of Redmond's business community with each other and with the local freeway--State Route 520. For its part, Microsoft has pledged to spend $17.5 million, or roughly half of the project's estimated tab.

Plans for the connector are not new. The project has been an on-again, off-again item on the local agenda for more than a decade. It rose back up the list in 2005, after Microsoft agreed to contribute the millions of dollars as part of an expansion plan in the area.

"This overpass has been part of the Bellevue-Redmond transportation agenda since at least 1999," Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post, defending the overpass. "It was then, and is now, a long-overdue link to reduce congestion in this rapidly growing urban center, which supports over 44,000 jobs, 600 companies, including major employers like Honeywell, Siemens, Nintendo, and Sears, and over 5,000 homes. "

In announcing 138 state projects due to get federal funding, Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire noted that the project met all of the criteria for such projects and would significantly help a growing traffic problem in the area.

"It isn't about Microsoft," she said. "It's about reducing congestion."

For her full response to a question about the project, check out the video, embedded below.

<a href="http://video.msn.com/?mkt=en-US&amp;playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:4482261b-7d99-4e7c-bff9-eb58d22a83b0&amp;showPlaylist=true&amp;from=msnvideo" target="_blank" title="Gov. Gregoire Discusses the 520 Overpass" data-component="externalLink">Video: Gov. Gregoire Discusses the 520 Overpass</a>

About the author

    During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried has changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley. These days, most of her attention is focused on Microsoft. E-mail Ina.

     

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