Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Anchorage Mayor: $290 Million Needed for Port

By Mark Edward Nero

In Jan. 7 address to a group of regional lawmakers, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz requested that a statewide bond package include $290 million for the city’s unfinished Port of Anchorage modernization project.

Berkowitz, who took office July 1, 2015, said he’s making the port the city’s sole priority in the upcoming state legislative session.

Berkowitz seeks affiliation with Alaska Gov. Bill Walker’s anticipated $500 million, two-year general obligation bond package to replace most of the state’s capital budget.

The bond package, which has not yet been introduced, would be on the November ballot, and Berkowitz said he would like to see the port package added to the bond compendium.

The port modernization project, which has been in the works for more than a decade, was overseen by the US Maritime Administration until the US Army Corps of Engineers took control in May 2012. The expansion was originally estimated to cost $360 million and was supposed to be finished by 2011.

Instead, cost estimates have jumped to about $1 billion and climbing, and completion isn’t expected for another decade. Engineering firm CH2M HILL now serves as expansion’s project manager.

In November 2014, then-Mayor Dan Sullivan revealed a concept plan for a Port of Anchorage overhaul to the Anchorage State Assembly. The concept, chosen by an evaluation committee, includes replacing Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, demolishing the current port administration building and constructing a new one elsewhere.

The plan also includes minimizing the investment in an extension at the port’s northern end, something that had been underway, and caused more than its share of problems, for years.
About 87 percent of Alaska residents are served in some way by products coming through the port, according to Anchorage officials.