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Alaska editorial: Port answers

Posted: February 5, 2012 - 1:06am

This editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

Two studies, an audit and an analysis should tell us something about the troubled expansion project at the Port of Anchorage — both what went wrong and how to put things right.

That’s information the Alaska Legislature and the rest of us need as lawmakers decide how much more to invest in a project that became a poster child for cost overruns.

A study by CH2M Hill is looking at the design. That’s a study a local advisory commission has urged for years. The port expansion has been using interlocking steel sheets but much of that work has had to be torn out and replaced. The Army Corps of Engineers is doing a companion analysis that should be done by April.

Another engineering company is looking at the specifics of what went wrong and who is responsible. And the U.S. Department of Transportation is auditing the performance of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) in overseeing the project. The Port of Anchorage expansion was MARAD’s first such project.

The port handles most of Alaska’s day-to-day freight. It’s been a staging area for North Slope construction and overseas military deployments. Its expansion is the biggest public construction project in the state.

For all of those reasons, confusion over contracting, construction and responsibility has to end. The city and MARAD have a new agreement about project oversight and Anchorage is due for a new port director after the recent resignation of Bill Sheffield.

That helps.

So does knowing exactly where the project stands and how it got there, to make sure it doesn’t go there again.

Four reviews should help right Port of Anchorage expansion.

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