Another bump in federal cash coming to Alaska’s corroding port

Silt build up around the pilings at the Port of Anchorage in 2016 (Photo by Jim Jager, Port of Alaska)

The Port of Alaska is getting another boost in federal funding.

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan’s office announced Tuesday that the Department of Transportation Maritime Administration is awarding a $20 million grant to pay for infrastructure improvements.

“This grant will help restore the Port of Alaska’s status as a safe, cost-effective, reliable and resilient piece of infrastructure,” Sullivan said.

This follows a separate $25 million dollar grant from the DOT for the port in November.

[U.S. Dept. of Transportation awards $25M for Port of Alaska upgrades]

“The $20 million dollars is unambiguously good news for the Port of Alaska, and for the state generally,” said Anchorage City Manager Bill Falsey.

According to the administration, the municipality worked with port managers and the state’s congressional delegation to apply for the grant.

The money will help pay for upgrading the port’s cement and petroleum terminal, which brings essential building material and fuel to the majority of Alaskans. The city’s assembly already approved a gradual multi-year increase in tariffs to help cover the costs of that project. The newly announced funds will help offset those fees.

“Any amount of money that we have to raise through tariff adjustments is ultimately going to be passed through to the end-customers,” Falsey said. “Which is every construction project, every time you’re fueling your vehicle, or every time you’re booking a flight.”

[Crucial cargo port only ‘marginally adequate,’ say officials]

Combined with the earlier grant, DOT has pledged $45 million to complete the upgrades, which are set to begin at the port this spring. The projected cost for this phase of improvements is estimated at $200 million. Additional work to fix corroded pilings and the cargo dock design will be more expensive.