Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Bridge Naming Lottery

There's debate between Missouri and Illinois about how to finance a new bridge over the Mississippi River, and the two sides are deadlocked. Fortunately, I have the solution.

Sell the naming rights for the bridge -- but not to a corporation!

Instead, sell tickets to the public, draw a winner at random, and that person gets to decide whose name goes on the bridge for the next year. They can name it after themselves, or a family member, or a soldier who died in the war, or anyone they like. After those twelve months, have another lottery, sell more tickets, and name it after that winner. And so on and so on for the next twenty years.

Not only would this answer the money question, it would also keep the bridge from being named for yet another politician. Tom Eagleton has the Federal Courthouse, Buzz Westfall has the Page Avenue Extension, and we don't need anything else named after Ronald Reagan. With my plan, the bridge gets named after some regular, not-famous-at-all man or woman.

I figure we could sell around a million tickets each year. That's not a million buyers, but a million tickets -- we'd have multiple purchases by many people, including: grandparents who want to do something for their grandkids; people who don't know what to get for someone's birthday, baby shower, or bar mitzvah; husbands who don't ever want to be blamed for forgetting an anniversary ever again; and lots of folks who just want their name on something.

Plenty of St. Louisans have already put their name on bricks around the new Busch Stadium, which cost a lot more than these tickets, and no one really notices them except family members who stop to hunt them down. With the bridge naming rights, everyone in town would know your name -- there would be signs aplenty, and every traffic report for a year would mention a backup on the Your Name Here Bridge!

Speaking of bricks, we could do that, too, with a brick walkway across the bridge. We can also sell sponsorships of the flags hanging off the light poles (like the ones on Kingshighway for "The Hill," or all over town when The Final Four was here). Now we'd have even more money rolling in, and never have to think about installing a tollbooth.

So, how much money can we raise?

If we price the tickets at $25 apiece, that's $25,000,000 a year. Over 20 years, we're talking half a billion dollars. Add in the federal money (about $240 million) and you have quite a bridge-building fund, even without Missouri and Illinois kicking in a penny!

What do you think?

Would you buy a ticket? More than one? Is $25 too high? Too low? Would we sell more tickets if there were also a cash prize of, say, $100,000? A million bucks?

I'm open to any suggestions, comments, problems you foresee, or alterations to this plan. Add'em below.