Price tag for Anchorage port project nears $2B
The potential cost of a major modernization project at the city's Port of Alaska has nearly doubled, rising from earlier estimates of just over $1 billion.
Port officials presented revised cost estimates for the work Thursday, during a meeting of the Anchorage Assembly's Enterprise and Utility Oversight Committee.
During a slide presentation, the initial figure of nearly $1.08 billion was updated to a revised cost estimate of just under $1.93 billion.
Municipal Manager Bill Falsey said the price tag for work at the port exceeds what the city has available.
"So if no one gives us money, be prepared: we're going to have to come up with some proposal to do this on our own," he said.
Assembly member Eric Croft, one of those present Thursday, expressed concern at the increased cost.
"Just short of $2 billion; we've got a lot of digging to do to say why didn't we know it would be this much," Croft said.
Municipal officials say the revised cost estimates come from project manager CH2M. The firm's Jeff Bool explained why costs increased as part of the presentation.
An estimate to build a petroleum and cement terminal, an improvement officials have said will halve the time needed for unloading a ship's cargo of cement to less than a week, rose from an initial $124.3 million to $223.1 million.
As part of that new terminal, officials estimated that some "transitional dredging" would cost $13 million – but the final contracted value was $21.4 million. The preliminary estimate also assumed that the work would be completed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but partial Corps funding didn't materialize and Congress never provided authority for the Corps to contract the work with city funding.
Officials also said that due to market conditions on the West Coast, "limited dredge availability drove higher pricing."
Design changes to the terminal incurred an additional $29.4 million in cost increases. A petroleum tower officials had planned to reuse was determined to be "structurally deficient," forcing its replacement for $6.2 million.
The report also indicated another building was "insufficient to support the operational requirement" and was being replaced, at a cost of $3.5 million.
Expanding a platform at the terminal to include a larger cement offloading machine and operational building, along with improvements for "operational safety," was set to cost another $5 million.
Expanded costs also included additional measures to strengthen the port in the event of earthquakes, along with extending the life of the port.
Jim Jager, the port's external affairs director, said that this was the first update on the new cost increases to the group. Jager says an update a year ago was based on 2016 data, and a lot of things have changed since then. He called the new $1.9 billion estimate an "all in" figure, adding that not everything in the plans may be done and that other groups may end up paying for some of the costs.
The port adjacent to Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has also been designated a U.S. Commercial Strategic Seaport by the Department of Defense, Jager said, which requires the port to maintain the facility to certain specifications. That includes 500 more feet of extended dock, which Jager said means greater construction, operation and maintenance costs without generating significant commercial revenue – and the federal government hasn't provided funding for the space.
Earlier this week, Jager said the docks continue to corrode and will have to start closing due to "reduced load capacities" within about nine years. Regardless of repairs or seismic activity, Jager says, the new docks will take a minimum of eight years to construct because of a short construction season and long lead times to order steel, dock components and reserve specialized construction equipment.
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