Port Study Confirms Design, Construction Flaws

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A draft study shows design and construction flaws with the port of Anchorage project. Officials with the firm CH2M HILL presented the study’s findings to the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor on Friday at City Hall.

Engineers paid to review the port debacle say, the main concern is that the work already done on the port would not hold up in a big earthquake, and that at the end of 50 years, it would be over-stressed and not meet safety standards. The clay soil in Cook Inlet, they say, presented a serious challenge to construction. Mayor Dan Sullivan acknowledged that it appears some of the work already done likely cannot be repaired.

“I’m not an engineer nor a construction expert to know whether or not some of that can be mitigated with construction techniques or not, but that’s why I think we just need to be patient until February when we get the recommendation on how to proceed forward,” Sullivan said. “But again, there was an indication that some of this work was irreparable.”

The “Port of Anchorage Expansion Project” has been in the works for more than a decade. The Municipality of Anchorage partnered with the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration on the project. In 2003, construction got underway, then stalled around 2009 after serious construction problems came to light. Cost estimates skyrocketed. Upwards of 300 million public dollars have been spent on the project so far.

Dr. Larry McCallister is with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. He says his offices will be coming up with several design concepts which they will be presenting this spring:

“You know an engineer given enough time and money, we can repair and fix anything. The issue becomes how much time, how much money is available. Do we want to move forward with a completely different concept and combination of the two. That’s the sort of thing we’re going to be doing in the next few months,” McCallister said.

The Corps of Engineers concepts for how to move forward will be a part of a second study that will identify the most promising alternative design and should be available by March. Sullivan says that’s when his office will be able to put a price tag on the project. The only estimate he can give now is that it will cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

The Municipality has about $80 million on hand for the project and is set to receive another $50 million from a bond that was approved by voters on the Nov. 6 ballot.

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Daysha Eaton, KMXT - Kodiak
Daysha Eaton is a contributor with the Alaska Public Radio Network. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.