• 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

  • Lifestyle

    Sperm problems? Smartphone device could screen for infertility

    by Shanika Gunaratna / CBS News on Mar 22, 22:35

    What would happen if screening for male infertility was just about as easy as taking a pregnancy test in your home bathroom? That’s the question researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital tried to answer when they went about developing a smartphone-based test that men could use to test their semen in […]

  • Politics

    What your vote means for Proposition 8

    by Daniella Rivera on Mar 22, 22:34

    In an effort to make taxicab service better and faster, the Anchorage Assembly voted in December to make changes to Title XI in municipal code. The changes will put an additional 166 cabs on the streets over the next five years, but the cab industry says it’ll do more harm than good. So they’re asking voters […]

  • News

    North Korea missile launch attempt fails, U.S., South Korea say

    by CBS/AP on Mar 22, 21:18

    North Korea’s latest missile launch ended in failure on Wednesday, the U.S. and South Korean militaries said, three days after the North claimed a major breakthrough in its rocket development program. The reported launch failure comes as the North is angrily reacting to ongoing annual U.S.-South Korean military drills that it views as an invasion […]

  • News

    New languages considered for ASD immersion program as lottery deadline looms

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 22, 21:15

    Parents in the Anchorage School District have shown enough interest in immersion programs that the district is considering adding other languages. “The three languages that continue to come up are Korean, Arabic and French,” explained the program’s director, Brandon Locke. He said one thing working in the district’s favor is the “cost.” “People think this […]

  • News

    Mat-Su Borough Assembly takes 2 parks off trapping ban list

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 22, 20:33

    The Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly voted Tuesday night to change an ordinance on trapping in the borough that was passed recently. The Assembly had approved a measure to ban trapping near school grounds and trails in eight local parks, but Assembly member Randall Kowalke requested a reconsideration of the ordinance less than 24 hours later. He […]

  • News

    Renovations planned for UAS Ketchikan maritime facilities

    by Associated Press on Mar 22, 20:22

    Construction is expected to start later this year on a nearly $6 million overhaul of University of Alaska Southeast Ketchikan’s Regional Maritime and Career Center. The Ketchikan Daily News reports that Wendy Miles Horn, with the university, says the work is needed because the two buildings that make up the facility are inadequate, cramped and […]

  • Politics

    New fiscal plan pays out $1,900 PFD, but faces grim future

    by Liz Raines on Mar 22, 20:20

    There are now more than a handful of proposals in Juneau on how to use the permanent fund to solve the state’s multi-billion dollar budget shortfall. The latest is one unveiled by House Republican minority Wednesday morning, day 65 of the legislative session. House Bill 192 avoids a steep cut to dividends next year by using less […]

  • Police: Shooting at Fairbanks library confused for phone charger explosion

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Mar 22, 19:48

    An afternoon at a Fairbanks library took a strange turn when a man was injured by what was at first thought to be an exploding phone charger, but turned out to be a bullet, according to police. At 1:15 p.m., Fairbanks fire crews responded to the Noel Wien Library on Cowles Street after receiving a report […]