• 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

  • Make the Alaska Aces part of your team

    by Dave Leval on Dec 02, 21:01

    Here’s your chance to make Stephen Perfetto part of your team. The Alaska Aces center is one of three from the team on the ballot for the annual Meigray- ECHL Fantasy Team. Left-wingers Garet Hunt and Tim Wallace are also on the ballot. You can only vote once during the period that ends Monday, Dec. […]

  • News

    Bean’s Cafe opens overnight shelter, operated by its own staff

    by Eric Ruble on Dec 02, 20:52

    About 50 people were expected to spend Friday night inside Bean’s Cafe. Executive director Lisa Sauder said the decision was made less than one week ago, after the municipality asked for help in accommodating people who were turned away from places like Brother Francis Shelter due to high demand. “The need is great. The temperatures […]

  • Lawmakers, school board consider alternative approach to classroom discipline

    by Liz Raines on Dec 02, 20:35

    School suspensions may become a thing of the past. Lawmakers and school board members are looking at a different approach to student discipline statewide. National studies have found that, for many incarcerated adults, their pathway to jail started with frequent suspensions in school. The trend is now known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Educators statewide are trying […]

  • News

    Economist: Alaska is in a recession

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 19:26

    JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) – A state labor department economist says Alaska is in a recession, facing job losses across most sectors of the economy amid chronically low oil prices. Caroline Schultz says the recession likely began at the end of 2015. Job numbers released by the department Friday show average monthly employment in the first […]

  • Guns and marijuana: Murkowski says feds are going too far

    by Shannon Ballard on Dec 02, 19:21

    Alaskans using marijuana may be forfeiting their right to bear arms. According to federal law, marijuana users can’t legally buy guns in the United States. At Granny’s Guns and Loan in Midtown, owner Barry Barr knows his firearms and the rules required to sell them. Each buyer must fill out federal Form 4473. “They have to […]

  • News

    APD asks community where officers should spend their time

    by Lauren Maxwell on Dec 02, 19:02

    Anchorage will soon have new police officers on the streets and for some people, they couldn’t come soon enough. Back-to-back academies, including a graduation on Thursday, are pushing the numbers up. APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro said there are 40 more officers on the street then there were in January of 2015. She said by next […]

  • Lifestyle

    Avalanche experts: Check your safety gear before venturing into the backcountry

    by Heather Hintze on Dec 02, 18:40

    When it comes to being in the backcountry safety is a top priority. “I’d say, if I showed up and missed a piece of safety gear, it didn’t make it in the car I probably wouldn’t go,” skier Tad Denning said. “It’s hard to enjoy yourself up there when you know you’re not prepared.” Denning […]

  • Politics

    Trump speaks with Taiwan’s president, risking China tensions

    by Associated Press on Dec 02, 16:45

    NEW YORK (AP) – Donald Trump has spoken with the president of Taiwan, a self-governing island the U.S. broke diplomatic ties with in 1979. It is highly unusual, perhaps unprecedented, for a U.S. president or president-elect to speak directly with a Taiwanese leader. The U.S. cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan when it shifted diplomatic […]