Transportation and tourism infrastructure on top Mat-Su list
|Written by Patty Sullivan|
|Tuesday, 13 December 2011 19:32|
MAT-SU—In a push to catch up with tremendous growth, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Assembly members presented transportation and tourism infrastructure projects as priorities to the Mat-Su legislative delegation Monday. The top funding requests include $60 million for Port MacKenzie Rail and $32 million to match taxpayer dollars on voter-approved road bonds.
The $60 million will build two more segments of the Port MacKenzie Rail Extension, bringing the project funding to two-thirds of the entire rail embankment from the port to Houston. The 11 road projects in the 2011 Road Bond Package will further develop the Borough’s connector and arterial road network.
The strength of the “Valley” state delegation as Rep. Mark Neuman described it, was fully represented at the Legislative Information Office in Wasilla Monday with eight present including the two members whose districts sweep to the Interior and Copper River: Sen. John Coghill-District F, of North Pole, and Rep. Eric Feige-District 12, of Chickaloon, as well as Sen. Charlie Huggins-District H, Sen. Linda Menard-District G, Rep. Bill Stoltze-District 16, Rep. Carl Gatto-District 13, Rep. Mark Neuman-District 15, and Rep. Wes Keller-District 14. And all but one member on the Assembly was present.
Both bodies work well together. Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss remarked on his “personal connection” with the delegation. Assemblymember Jim Colver asked how the Assembly can help this year. New Assemblymember Steve Colligan shared with the Legislators, “I look forward to working with all of you and to getting direction on where we might help.”
A resolution of Mat-Su State Legislative priorities for fiscal year 2013 was presented along with a more detailed State Legislative priorities booklet.
Sen. Coghill said he understood the priority of the Port MacKenzie Rail project. The rail link could bring hundreds of new jobs to the Interior.
Mayor DeVilbiss said the approval by voters of the road bonds while a $214 million school bond was also on the ballot “clearly shows people feel the pinch on our highway infrastructure.” The Mat-Su population grew 50 percent in the 2010 U.S Census. Three of Mat-Su highways are among the most dangerous in the state, with two of them, Parks Highway milepost 44-53, and Knik Goose Bay Road, declared Traffic Safety Corridors because of the high numbers of fatalities and injuries. The 11 road projects in the road bond package will help ease the strain on crowded Mat-Su roads.
Assemblymember Ron Arvin encouraged the delegation to fund another important project, the Bogard Road Extension for $31 million. The funding would pay for construction. “It’s ready to go,” Arvin said. Bogard would provide a second east-west corridor between Wasilla and Palmer, reducing the danger on the nearby Palmer-Wasilla Highway.
Other projects such as the Knik Arm Crossing, the South Denali Visitor Center, Hatcher Pass Ski Area and Mat-Su projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program were discussed. See the Legislative Priority Booklets for more details.
GOOSE CREEK CORRECTIONAL CENTER
Sen. Menard relayed that she recently represented to Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell the strong local support of residents for opening Goose Creek Correctional Center. Last session Rep. Stoltze played a lead role in helping restore a $3.6 million appropriation of initial operating funds for the prison. The Borough transfers the prison to the state Dept. of Corrections in February 2012.
Menard announced that the builder of the prison, Jerry Neeser, of Neeser Construction, was recognized in November as a top individual in the building industry by the Associated General Contractors. The $240 million prison was completed ahead of schedule, within budget, with no cost overruns. Neeser appears in a Borough video describing Goose Creek as an impeccable project that could not be built for its price again ever. See the video at http://youtu.be/iTd_mF_riX0
Up to 350 Department of Corrections jobs would be created in Alaska. Presently more than $20 million is spent in Colorado annually on a smaller inmate population. The construction project already injected $100 million in construction payroll into the state economy at a time when the nation held on during a down economy.
Assemblymember Vern Halter thanked the Legislators for any road or fire service funds. “We always put it to good use,” Halter said. A new fire station for Caswell Lakes is on the priority list. The Borough is requesting $2 million. Caswell Lakes is the youngest fire service area and the only one in the Borough without a fire station.
Photos Top left: Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss shares a laugh next to Manager John Moosey. Top right: Rep. Eric Feige and Rep. Mark Neuman listen to discussions on Port MacKenzie Rail. Middle: Mat-Su legislative delegation and Borough Assemblymembers at the LIO in Wasilla. Photo right: Manager Moosey displays the Borough's 2011 poster of the coming Nordic Ski Area at Hatcher Pass and Government Peak. Artist John McOmber painted the winning poster. left: Borough state lobbyist Ray Gillespie and Borough Mayor Larry DeVilbiss, right Assemblymember Ron Arvin. Photos by Patty Sullivan/MSB.