• 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

  • DayBreak

    Five/Thirty Project: An Urban Conflux in Anchorage

    by Daybreak Staff on May 28, 13:19

    Five/Thirty Project: An Urban Conflux It’s a day full of events meant to bring the community of Anchorage together in unexpected ways, and it’s happening Saturday, May 30. Organizers Laura Oden and Ingvil Vatn Guttu joined Daybreak Thursday to talk about the event. “It’s a daytime event, outside, getting people out of their houses to […]

  • News

    Report: Deficient risk assessment led to drill rig grounding

    by Associated Press on May 28, 12:34

    A federal agency says the grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC mobile offshore drilling rig in 2012 was due to the company’s inadequate assessment of risk involved in a winter tow across the treacherous Gulf of Alaska. The National Transportation Safety Board issued its ruling Thursday on the Kulluk, which had been used to […]

  • DayBreak

    Alaska author introduces new book

    by Daybreak Staff on May 28, 12:22

    Author of “Ellison and Amos,” Charlie Gibbons joined Daybreak Thursday to talk about what went into writing his newest book. It’s a book about a rock-and-roll legend who loses everything of meaning and embarks on a journey on the back of a motorcycle only to face his greatest fear: The fan. The drummer from Rush, […]

  • News

    Alaska LNG receives key export approval

    by Kirsten Swann on May 28, 10:53

    A massive Alaska energy project reached a major milestone Thursday, receiving conditional authorization to export liquefied natural gas to international markets. Issued by the U.S. Department of Energy, the authorization allows the Alaska LNG Project, LLC to sell domestically produced LNG to foreign countries that don’t have Free Trade Agreements with the United States — […]

  • News

    Judge hears EPA motion dismiss Pebble case

    by Associated Press on May 28, 9:59

    A federal judge in Anchorage is deciding whether to allow a case filed by the backers of a proposed mine in southwest Alaska to proceed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Attorneys for the Pebble Limited Partnership allege the EPA violated a federal law by establishing and working with groups of mine critics that essentially […]

  • News

    3 escape serious injury after plane crash near Port Alsworth

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 28, 9:28

    Three people emerged mostly unscathed from a plane crash near Port Alsworth Tuesday night, authorities say. Just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, Alaska State Troopers in Iliamna received a report that someone activated a personal locater beacon about 20 miles northwest of Port Alsworth, according to an online dispatch from AST. While flying over the area, […]

  • Politics

    Education group to lawmakers: Stop fiddling around

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on May 28, 8:29

    As state lawmakers meet inside the downtown Anchorage Legislative Information Office in special session, the street corner outside has been taken over by protestors, mainly church groups calling on the Legislature to pass a bill expanding Medicaid. But on Wednesday, Great Alaska Schools drew a crowd of about 60 demonstrators who sang and waved signs […]

  • Sports

    Mount Marathon preps underway

    by Dave Goldman on May 28, 8:05

    It’s beginning to look a lot like Mount Marathon. As the 88th running of the famed Alaskan event draws near, a city awaits. And prepares. “Everything is going along accordingly. The whole community is super committed to it,” said Kari McKahan, the events coordinator for Seward and the race. The 3,022-foot climb will go off […]