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Anchorage mulls options for troubled port project

Posted: December 18, 2012 - 1:08am

ANCHORAGE — The best options for the troubled Port of Anchorage expansion project involve removing most of the new dock areas built, then either replacing the old dock or shoring it up, city officials said.

One possible fix would leave the two major cargo carriers at the Port of Anchorage’s old dock, which officials say is deteriorating, the Anchorage Daily News reported Monday.

Possible ways to resolve the project came out of a recent three-day session involving key players, including the port, cargo carriers, consulting engineers CH2M Hill and the U.S. Maritime Administration, the federal agency that managed the beleaguered project.

The city has been working for more than a decade to improve and replace the 51-year-old dock.

Under a design patented by PND Engineers Inc. as Open Cell Sheet Pile, the new dock was being built as a series of U-shaped steel cells backfilled with gravel to create new land, instead of a traditional dock on piling.

Major construction was halted in 2009 and 2010 after components of the new dock were damaged.

Last year, the Maritime Administration, or MARAD, contracted with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether the cell sheet pile design could be constructed at the port site. The Corps hired CH2M, which concluded an open-cell dock structure could fail during an earthquake even if the steel sheets were driven into the seafloor correctly.

PND Engineers disputes that contention.

“We at PND and our subcontractors stand behind the design and analysis we performed, which was validated after multiple reviews by MARAD, USACE (Corps of Engineers) and other public entities as well as PND’s 32-year reputation and history of success,” PND president John Pickering wrote in a Dec. 4 letter to the municipality.

PND still is reviewing its draft copy of the CH2M Hill study, but wants to help the municipality complete the port project, Pickering wrote.

The 2,200-page study is scheduled for public release in February.

City manager George Vakalis said the agreement that put a federal agency in charge of the project failed to ensure the city’s interests as owner were protected.

More than $300 million already has been spent on constructing new dock sections now considered flawed, as well as a new rail line, utilities, drainage systems, roads and new acreage that mainly will remain in place.

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