VIRGINIA BEACH -- A quarter-mile trail across Lake Holly near Pacific Avenue may be one of the priciest walkways you’ll ever cross. It has two gazebos and sophisticated LED lighting as part of the project’s $1.2 million price tag.
The city used local taxes, largely paid by tourists, and an $800,000 federal grant to pay for a small stretch of the larger eight-mile loop for bikers and walkers called the South Beach Trail Boardwalk.
Bob Matthias, the city‘s paid lobbyist, pushed Washington to use your federal tax dollars to fund the project.
"It’s not pork. You can call it pork for as long as you want," Matthias said.
Citizens Against Government Waste called the walkway "the quintessential pork barrel earmark." The taxpayer watchdog group says it's not a national priority and wasn't requested by the president. Instead, it's a pet project tucked into the 2002 Transportation Bill by the local congressional delegation, which was led by Senator John Warner (R-VA) before he retired.
Matthias says what's good for Virginia Beach is good for the country and vice versa.
If people in Virginia Beach are going to pay for flood damage in Illinois, then people across the U.S, should have no issue with paying for a walkway in Virginia Beach, he added.
That thinking didn't add up to some people.
"I think the government is pretty good at breaking things, killing people and basic national defense, keeping the country safe, and a little bit of overhead for infrastructure. The rest of it, they should get the heck out of it," Lee Dise said.
The city says it built the walkway to keep bikers and walkers safe and insists the path would have been built someday, even without federal funds.
The walkway is open, but the city says it hasn't formally studied just how many people actually use it.
The 2002 Transportation Bill had $3.6 billion in pet projects, including $7 million for bike trails, money to buy buses for ski resorts in New Mexico and funds to study bicycle commuting in Austin, Texas.