• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
2m 23s

A new plan to rescue the Knik Arm Bridge

By Rhonda McBride 9:31 AM March 20, 2014

Mix of federal funds and bonds proposed for bridge project

JUNEAU – There’s more than one way to finance a bridge.

Wednesday, the head of the state transportation department told lawmakers that a rewritten version of House Bill 23 can rescue the Knik Arm Bridge, a project that’s struggled for years to get off the drawing board.

“I think this project is long overdue,” said Jeff Otteson, director of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. “It’s been a vision of state imagineers, if you would, for decades.”

Otteson told members of the Senate Finance Committee the bill would use a mix of federal highway money and bonds to be repaid from tolls. An earlier plan involved a public-private partnership, but there was debate about whether the bridge would generate enough traffic to pencil out.

Ottesen said the new plan would tap a federal loan program that offers more flexibility.

“It’s very patient. If traffic doesn’t materialize as quickly as is expected, then they will literally just carry that cost forward,” Otteson said. “They will keep charging interest on those loans at a rather low interest. But there’s no expectation of payment, if payment isn’t possible.”

The bridge would cross Cook Inlet and connect Anchorage to communities on the other side. It’s faced opposition for a number of reasons: its potential impact on the Government Hill neighborhood, as well as worries about keeping the toll low enough so it would be economical for drivers to use the bridge.

Some of the traffic estimates from the Knik Arm and Bridge Toll Authority — which has been the lead agency for the project — have also been questioned.

And that’s why some lawmakers like Anchorage Sen. Johnny Ellis remain skeptical about the bridge, despite the new financing plan.

“It depends on federal funds that I predict will not materialize, so the state gets left holding the bag for the entire exorbitant cost of the project, which will undoubtedly have cost overruns,” Ellis said. “The financing plan is in trouble before it evens gets started.”

Ellis also said he worries the bridge is a threat to other transportation projects across the state.

But Otteson doesn’t believe that would be the case with the new financing structure.

Sen. Anna Fairclough, vice chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, said she wants to hear more testimony on the new financing structure, but she’s encouraged.

“It’s a much-improved process,” Fairclough said. “It looks like it can pencil out to the benefit of the people of Alaska. It requires a lower level of volume across the bridge, and it divides the project into three potential payers.”

The bridge, now rebranded as the “Knik Arm Crossing,” has a price tag approaching $800 million.

KABATA has said the cost of the project increases every year by about $25 million, partly due to a combination of inflation and other factors.

Latest Stories

  • News

    Red Cross of Alaska speaks out for Giving Tuesday

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 27, 22:48

    After Thanksgiving, shoppers have a number of opportunities to save big: first there’s Black Friday, then Small Business Saturday and finally, Cyber Monday. Many use the sales in stores and online as a chance to get deals on Christmas presents for their loved ones, but the Red Cross of Alaska says Giving Tuesday is another […]

  • News

    Thousands turn out for Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony in Downtown Anchorage

    by Daniella Rivera on Nov 27, 22:37

    Friday night, thousands packed Town Square Park for the annual AT&T Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony, marking the official start of the holiday season in Anchorage. Alaskans enjoyed free hot cocoa and cookies, kids got to meet Santa Claus and his reindeer, and Alaskans gave back through donations to Toys for Tots. Live music was provided by […]

  • News

    Eagle River women turn to Kickstarter to fund indoor dog park

    by Bonney Bowman on Nov 27, 20:42

    Thousands of Alaskan dog owners know around this time of year it can be tough to get your dog enough exercise. Whether it’s cold and icy or wet and muddy, conditions aren’t always ideal for a long walk. That’s what inspired Alyssa Oehmke and Melanie Wallace to found the Alaska Canine Club, an indoor dog park. […]

  • News

    Locally-owned Anchorage stores brace for ‘Small Business Saturday’

    by Liz Raines on Nov 27, 18:18

    Although Black Friday had a low turnout in Anchorage this year, many local businesses say they’re banking on Saturday sales. “‘Small Business Saturday’ is always the big push, people come out in full force which is awesome, we appreciate that, completely,” said Annie Ciszak Pazar, owner of Bella Boutique in Spenard. “You know they call […]

  • News

    Colorado Planned Parenthood shooting suspect in custody, 3 dead

    by CBS/AP on Nov 27, 18:10

    COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An alleged gunman surrendered to police Friday, five hours after he opened fire at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Police Lt. Catherine Buckley said two civilians and one police officer were killed. The officer was from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs police department, which was among the local […]

  • News

    Dangerous avalanche conditions continue across Southcentral Alaska

    by Heather Hintze on Nov 27, 17:39

    Warm, above-average temperatures mixed with wet, heavy snow have created extremely unsafe backcountry conditions across much of Southcentral Alaska. Avalanche forecaster Wendy Wagner wouldn’t venture into the Turnagain backcountry to check conditions on Friday. “We won’t even go off the road,” she explained. “We spend our time driving and looking for debris piles because you […]

  • Crime

    Spring Creek inmate faces attempted murder, assault charges

    by Shannon Kemp on Nov 27, 15:46

    A man already serving time at the Spring Creek Correctional Center for attempted murder has been charged with assaulting and attempting to murder a fellow inmate. The alleged assault occurred on Aug. 4, when 47-year-old Mark Spencer attacked a 41-year-old inmate at the correctional center in Seward. The victim was “cut seriously,” according to an […]

  • News

    Man reportedly pulls gun at Anchorage Lowe’s when asked to provide receipt

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Nov 27, 14:05

    A man reportedly pulled a gun at an Anchorage Lowe’s on Black Friday after an employee asked to see the man’s receipt for a power tool. The man walked into the Tudor Road store and grabbed a DeWalt power tool, according to a Lowe’s employee who asked not to be named. At one point, a […]