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Rep. Gara Again Calls for Answers from Port

JUNEAU – Today on the House Floor, Representative Les Gara (D-Anchorage) again demanded the Port of Anchorage tell Alaskans whether it’s asking for $350 million as it now claims or $1.2 billion as it has as recently as November 2011. The Port project has been plagued with hundreds of millions of dollars in cost overruns.

“I’m okay with what they’re asking for now, but the state needs to know if Port of Anchorage is going to keep coming back for more,” said Rep. Gara. “This project started out as a $275 million proposal. Then it was $500 million. Then $700 million. Then the former Port Director said it would be $1 billion more for three needed sections. When does it stop? I’m not comfortable putting unlimited funds into a project until I know it’s been efficiently designed.”

At a March 2012 House Finance Committee hearing, Rep. Gara requested a commitment from the Port that it would fund the Middle and South section expansions without state funds. An answer was promised at that hearing, but has not been provided. Senator Lyman Hoffman asked for a similar commitment in a Senate Finance Committee hearing.

After cost overruns started to draw public attention, Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan stated he only wanted funds in the amount of $350 million for the North Phase – but he then called that just a “first phase.”  Later he indicated this is all the funding the Port needed, leaving the public to wonder whether the additional $700 million would just be requested after his term expired.

The proposed North Phase expands the berthing and loading area. The Middle Phase would repair the existing loading area, and moves the Port building off shaky pilings. The South Phase focuses on fuel storage and loading.

“This whole expansion project should be redesigned in a more cost-effective manner. But for now I want to know whether a project originally estimated to cost $275 million will cost $350 million more in state money, or a billion dollars more in state money. We need that answer before we spend millions in extra public money on this project this year,” said Gara.

The letter to the Port is included here, and the November 1, 2011, Anchorage Daily News article with statements by the Mayor of Anchorage and former Port Director is linked here.

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