Many call the Port of Anchorage a lifeline for the Last Frontier. While it brings in nearly 90 percent of everyday goods used by local households, the facility has been through a lot in its 50-year lifespan.
Corrosion is making pilings rusty and slimy, which is part of the reason why the port has been needing a makeover for years.
“One of our concerns seismically is over time you get the sedimentation buildup underneath the facility -- if you had a strong seismic event, that could actually slide,” said port engineer Todd Cowles.
A planned expansion of the port has been under construction for more than a decade. The project was halted a few years ago because of concerns about massive cost overages and its engineering design, which the city has blamed on the federal Maritime Administration in a lawsuit filed earlier this year.
Earlier this year, engineering firm CH2M HILL was chosen to take over the expansion and move the project forward.
“You can’t do anything; eventually the corrosion will eat its way through and you risk collapse,” Cowles said.
This week, a group of stakeholders, subject matter experts and officials with the port will come together to try and come up with a plan for the future.
“Bring them into a room and start the discussion with ideas of how we might phase the project moving forward,” Cowles said. “Looking at different phasing plans, we have to be cognizant as what can be rehabilitated versus what needs to be replaced, and look for opportunities for cost savings in that regard.”
The initial estimate for the project was around $300 million. The project is now expected to cost almost $1 billion. The expansion project received $439 million from local, state and federal sources. Of that amount $312 million has been spent, leaving the city only $127 million to complete the upgrade.
The recommended concept plan will be presented to the Anchorage Assembly in November. Once the plan and budget is approved the project will move into its final design and construction will begin.