A proposed bridge between the Port of Anchorage and Port Mackenzie is still on track after the Alaska Senate voted 16-4 in favor of a new financial plan for the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority.
Originally introduced last year, House Bill 23 changes KABATA’s status from a public-private partnership to a fully run state agency in charge of the proposed 1.7 mile two-lane bridge.
KABATA Spokesperson Shannon McCarthy says phase one of the project will cost $782 million.
According to information released by Senator Kevin Meyer’s office, the bridge will be financed through a three part process: Federal dollars, bonds issued by the state and TIFIA or Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation loans. The TIFIA loans would be paid back with revenue generated through tolls.
The state is spending $5 million on the project this budget year, but will also receive $50 million in federal matching funds.
"Frankly, that is what government is for. We build roads and bridges,” said Meyer (R-Anchorage)
But some lawmakers say KABATA is inflating its toll revenue projections.
"September 30th of last year was when we we're supposed to have the updated projections, because a Legislative Audit found that their previous projections were wildly optimistic,” said Sen. Johnny Ellis (D-Anchorage).
Part of the Knik Arm Crossing’s approach roads will run through Ellis’s district in Government Hill.
Bridge backers say there needs to be an alternate route between Anchorage and the Mat-Su valley to relieve congestion on the Glenn Highway during rush hour, or when the road is closed.
“I sit in traffic for hours, and I am not exaggerating,” said Sen. Anna Fairclough (R-Eagle River). “There is a moose that can get hit on that road, it is not safe."
Opponents of the bridge call it another mega project doomed for failure, and that any monetary commitment by the state is too risky during uncertain financial times.
"For those of you who go to church, look it up in proverbs where it says a fool and his money, are soon parted,” said Sen. Donny Olson (D-Golovin).
The House must sign off on changes made to the bill in the senate before the governor can sign it into law.