Anchorage asks $350M for port expansion

ANCHORAGE — Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan is expected to request $350 million from the Legislature for the already-scaled down Port of Anchorage expansion project.

The amount is an estimate of what it will take to finish enough of the project to take care of the port’s needs for the next 40 to 50 years, said Larry Baker, Sullivan’s chief of staff.

A draft of the mayor’s legislative requests appeared on Tuesday night’s Anchorage Assembly agenda. City officials are expected to present a final version to the Anchorage legislative caucus on Nov. 18, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

Money for the port could be part of a statewide bond proposition, or it could come in a direct appropriation, Sullivan said.

“The bottom line is we wanted to move forward with certainty at this point,” the mayor said Wednesday. “This project is too important to keep nibbling at, and you never know in the future whether another Legislature or future (state) administration will be in a position to fund a project like this.”

The port project has been stalled because of lack of funding and construction problems. In 2009, hundreds of steel sheets were damaged during installation and repairs were expensive.

In the 2011 legislative session, port director Bill Sheffield asked the state for $320 million but received only $30 million.

Sullivan said the project has progressed since then.

“The difference now is that we’ve got the project back on track. We’ve got new oversight,” he said.

Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, the Senate Finance Committee’s co-chair, said the state has the money for another big capital improvement budget. He said he generally supports expanding the port.

Last year, the approved capital budget was $2.8 billion. Stedman thinks the state should go for a sizeable capital budget again this year to keep the economy moving.

“Robust capital budgets keep our employment numbers up,” he said.

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