Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Port of Anchorage Expansion Assessment Due Soon

A US Army Corps of Engineers assessment of the Port of Anchorage expansion project is due in late October, just days before voters will decide whether to approve a $453 million bond proposition that includes $50 million for the port.

In an interview with the Alaska Journal of Commerce published Sept. 21, new port general manager Rich Wilson said that in addition to the Army Corps assessment, a revamped version of the port’s expansion plan would be coming in the spring of 2013.

“Our overall goals are to hold the line on rates for service, offsetting our cost increases; to sustain reliability of service,” he said, “and to take advantage of new technologies as they develop.”

Part of the agenda, he said, is to develop a long-range business plan on which to base the expansion. Wilson, who assumed his post four months ago, told the AJC that he hopes to have a contractor on board by October to develop the business plan, the first part of a port master plan.

The expansion, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was originally estimated to cost $360 million, and was supposed to be complete by 2011. Instead, cost estimates have jumped to more than $1 billion and continue to climb. A completion date is at least a decade away, according to previous port estimates.

Until earlier this year, the project had been overseen by the US Maritime Administration, but the city of Anchorage assumed responsibility on May 31, just two weeks after Wilson became the port’s executive director.

Currently, the Port of Anchorage handles about four million tons of freight annually, including about 80 percent of the food and other supplies for South-Central and Interior Alaska.