Friday, February 24, 2012

Anchorage Mayor Says Port Expansion Back on Track

A Port of Anchorage expansion project that’s been beset with funding, design and construction problems for years is now back on track, according to the city’s mayor.

“Shortly before I took office in July 2009, it was reported that there may be significant construction problems with the expansion project,” Mayor Dan Sullivan said. “For the last two-and-a-half years, my administration has worked diligently to first determine the extent of the problem and chart a path forward.”

Difficulties with the expansion have included the August 2011 death of a bulldozer operator who drowned when his machine accidentally slid into gravel fill; the discovery in 2009 that steel sheets used to form a new dock face bent and separated during installation; and cost overruns.

The project’s now estimated to cost about $1 billion to finish, triple the original 2005 projection.

But Sullivan says some solutions to issues have been found, including:
  • The full-time assignment of a Maritime Administration representative to the project, to allow better direct oversight and communication with federal agencies.
  • Formation of a project oversight committee, consisting of officials from MARAD, the city and the port. The committee, which will meet weekly, is tasked with approving work schedules and budgets, setting benchmarks, and approving changes.
  • Formation of a technical committee to review project documents and make recommendations to the project oversight committee.
  • Creation of a quality control and quality assurance program to ensure the work is done correctly.
  • A review of the expansion’s design, and of the construction to date, by the Army Corp of Engineers.
“With the project back on track, the only remaining component is funding,” Sullivan said, noting that Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell included $200 million for the port in his recently proposed state budget.

“I will be working with our Legislature to provide any additional information they may need to support the governor’s proposal, and give this critical project the fiscal certainty it needs going forward,” Sullivan said.