While various watchdog groups have raised concerns over Microsoft benefiting from a portion of the US federal stimulus funds in order to finance half of a bridge designed to connect one side of its Redmond campus to another, the company applauded the fact that the new overpass connecting NE 36th Street and NE 31st Street over State Route 520 got the green light. The overpass is a project valued at some $36.5 million dollars, and critics are pointing out that Microsoft should dip into its own pockets rather than turn to stimulus money from the government. However, the Redmond company is indeed coughing up a pretty penny, no less than $17.5 million for the construction of the bridge.
“In recent days, some have questioned whether this project should have been a recipient of federal stimulus funding. We think this is a very positive example of a public-private partnership, and we are pleased to be contributing roughly 50 percent of the funding to help build this public project that will benefit the entire community. The federal stimulus dollars combine with additional state, local and existing federal dollars to fund the remainder,” revealed Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel.
Smith underlined that not only was Microsoft participating in the project with half the funding, but that the company had already spent in excess of $50 million to help local authorities build infrastructure projects. At the same time, the overpass will not benefit Microsoft exclusively. Employees from Honeywell, Siemens, Nintendo and Sears will also get to use the bridge and will contribute to reducing the congestion affecting 148th Avenue NE and 156th Avenue NE.
Washington Governor Chris Gregoire explained that the overpass was not about Microsoft but “about multiple employers. It’s about thousands of employees and residents. It’s about taking people off the congestion we have in that interchange on [State Route] 520 now, where we literally have a problem in that people have to go 2 miles rather than two-tenths of a mile which that bridge would produce…. Almost 50 percent of that project is privately funded. That’s leveraging dollars. That’s what we’re trying to do, is to use private sector dollars with stimulus dollars and get a bigger bang for the buck.”