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No Construction Planned in 2012 for Anchorage Port

Fri June 15, 2012 - West Edition
CEG


Oblique aerial view of the Port of Anchorage, Alaska.
Oblique aerial view of the Port of Anchorage, Alaska.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) Expansion of the Port of Anchorage is on hold while engineers try to figure out what’s wrong with the current design.

“There is no construction plan for this summer and the likelihood of there being any is very, very low,” said Steve Ribuffo, interim director of the port that handles goods used by most Alaskans.

The city-owned port turned 50 last year. The Anchorage Daily News reported the municipality for more than a decade has worked to replace and expand it.

The port’s dock is on corroded piles that are expensive to maintain. Workers in 2009 began hammering steel replacement piles into the seabed to form a new dock but the piles bent and jammed together. The port project was supposed to be finished by 2011 but is years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of dollars over budget. The project in 2005 was estimated to cost $350 million. That has tripled to more than $1 billion.

The municipality at the end of May will assume responsibility for the project, taking over from the federal Maritime Administration.

The city agreed in 2003 to let the Maritime Administration take the lead on the project. The agency hired Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. to oversee construction. An extension of the federal government’s contract with ICRC ends May 31.

The engineering firm CH2M Hill is conducting an independent study of the design under a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers. It’s expected to be completed by July or August, according to the Corps.

The Corps is conducting its own companion study and another engineering firm, AECOM, is conducting a root cause analysis of what went wrong.

Also, U.S. Department of Transportation inspector general is auditing the Maritime Administration’s work.

“Before we commit to doing anything more we want to know what those studies say because the likelihood is very high that information will need to inform us to the degree we step ahead smartly,” Ribuffo said.

The studies may conclude that there’s a need to modify the design, he said.

The Alaska Legislature this year approved $48.5 million for the port and included $50 million in a bond package that will go before voters in November. Some of that probably will be spent on new design work, Ribuffo said.