• Forecast
  • News Tip
  • Categories
Temperature Precipitation
Estimated read time
3m 20s

As costs increase, port problems persist

By Emily Carlson 10:52 AM December 11, 2013

Multi-million dollar "boondoggle" involves more than 90 percent of goods in Alaska

ANCHORAGE – It’s a mega-sized boondoggle that could affect the price of almost everything you buy in Alaska.

The Port of Anchorage expansion project began more than a decade ago. Since then, the cost to taxpayers has more than quadrupled. Much of the work already done must be replaced. Right now, work is at a standstill, but with every day that goes by, costs increase.

The port — the place that takes in almost everything Alaskans eat and use on a daily basis — continues to rust with age and worry the people who work there.

Katrina Anderson grew up on the water of Cook Inlet. Today, she cruises the water as a tugboat captain.

“We’re really small, but we’re all the guts and power and glory,” she said.

She said chances are whatever food you buy at the grocery store started its journey at the port.

Ninety percent of the things you buy on a daily basis get here by boat. But the place they come in is old, rusting and in disrepair. Fifty-three years of wear and tear are taking their toll on the port complex.

“The Port of Anchorage has kind of lived its life span, it’s in need of repair,” Anderson said. “The old part of the dock definitely needs to be replaced.”

Twelve years ago, the Municipality of Anchorage started with a simple plan: Replace the old parts with new parts.

The price tag? $85 million.

But that simple remodel took a wild turn when former Alaska Gov. Bill Sheffield took the wheel. Sheffield’s grand plan would be the biggest public works project in state history.

His scheme started with building 135 acres of land out into Cook Inlet, more than tripling the size of the current port.

Sheffield claimed the expansion would bring billions of dollars in new business into Alaska; adding room for shippers, the military, Coast Guard and cruise ships.

The plan for economic growth would cost $146 million dollars and provide more jobs, money and tourism.

“Build it and they will come,” said Cook Inletkeeper Bob Shavelson. “You wave your wand over it, you have these prospects, there’s going to be all these jobs and increased revenues … lot of people get starry-eyed and they get lost.”

Shavelson said he’s been speaking out against the grand expansion plan for years. The problem was, nobody would listen.

“We did everything we could to elevate what we considered were relevant facts and science, and those just got brushed under the rug and politics took over ,” he said.

Shavelson said what happened at the port is a glaring example of government wasting taxpayer money, and some municipal officials couldn’t agree more.

“It’s some of the things that make taxpayers shake their head and say, ‘There’s government at work,’ and it’s in a negative connotation,” said Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Honeman.

Taxpayers should be angry, Honeman said. He said the grand idea pitched by port officials is a flop.

“It didn’t happen and as a result we got a boondoggle,” he said.

Twelve years after it began, the port expansion project is just 30 percent complete. Meanwhile, more than $300 million has been dumped into construction.

A construction and engineering firm was recently brought in to find out what went wrong, and called the expansion work “majorly defective,” “deficient” and “not up to standards.” 

So what happened, and who is at fault?

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong,” Sheffield said. “You gotta have a contractor that can install it properly.”

Is it the United States Maritime Administration — the federal agency leading the project — or perhaps PNC Engineering and their design?

For people like Anderson, who make their livelihood on the water at the port, blame is a touchy topic.

Anderson said all she wants is for Alaska’s most important man-made resource to be safe and durable.

“Whatever means that has to take,” she said. “It’s just really important for the infrastructure of Alaska that we maintain our lifeline.”

Latest Stories

  • News

    Troopers advise not to pick up Seward Highway hitchhikers after male driver flees on foot

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 28, 13:28

    Alaska State Troopers are advising Seward Highway drivers not to pick up hitchhikers after a male driver failed to yield for a traffic stop and then fled on foot. Initially, the driver didn’t yield for a trooper at a traffic stop near Tustumena Lake, according to a statement from AST spokesperson Tim DeSpain. “The vehicle […]

  • News

    Mayor Sullivan: More funds needed to push SAP project forward

    by Lauren Maxwell on Feb 28, 11:31

    Anchorage’s troubled computer software system, known as SAP, needs more cash to get it going. Mayor Dan Sullivan’s administration asked the Anchorage Assembly Friday to spend $8.3 million to hire consultants who can help to push the project forward. Sullivan said the money will pay for contracts that would run through Sept. 30 and carry over […]

  • News

    Pedestrian running across Muldoon Road struck by SUV

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 28, 0:16

    A pedestrian running across Muldoon Road late Friday night was struck by an oncoming vehicle, police say. Just after 11 p.m., six units from the Anchorage Police Department responded to the scene of a collision involving a Toyota SUV and a male pedestrian near Duben Avenue. The driver remained on scene and was cooperating with […]

  • News

    2014 Alaska drug report shows increases in heroin and meth use

    by KTVA CBS 11 News on Feb 27, 22:42

    A report highlighting cases related to substance abuse in Alaska in 2014 was released by the Department of Public Safety Friday. The Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit’s 2014 annual drug report covered arrests and seizures of items ranging from alcohol and prescription medication to heroin and meth labs. Over $28 million worth of drugs — in street […]

  • News

    CANstruction raises hunger awareness

    by Bonney Bowman on Feb 27, 21:04

    Making art and raising awareness about hunger, all with cans of food — the 2015 CANstruction food drive kicked off Friday at University Mall. Teams have 12 hours to build large sculptures, using only canned food. This year’s theme is “Under the Sea.” Organizers say it’s a great way to bring the issue of hunger in […]

  • Weather

    Evening News weather, Feb. 27

    by KTVA Weather on Feb 27, 20:55

    Kenai Peninsula/Prince William Sound There will be light snow on Saturday with some rain in there, too. No accumulation is expected in lower elevations. Valdez will only have snow. Southeast Southeast Alaska will have cloudy skies with light wind. Interior/North Slope Locations will have snow, blowing snow and blizzard conditions depending on the location. Mat-Su […]

  • News

    Students recreate tent city in school gym

    by Shannon Ballard on Feb 27, 20:43

    From a tent city to modern metropolis, Anchorage has come a long way in its 100 years. Some local students have brought to life a piece of the town’s history in a very real way. Polaris K-12 School students Breelyn Mangold and Canzada Maruski were curious about what was life like back in 1915. The girls […]

  • News

    Students link up for Anchorage children’s hospital

    by Shannon Ballard on Feb 27, 20:31

    Students around Anchorage found out that a little effort can reap big results. Together they raised more than $4,000 for the Children’s Hospital at Providence. All it took was a few weeks of selling small paper links for the Chains of Caring project for 25 cents, which added up. Highland Tech High School alone raised nearly $300. […]