Governor Signs Bill To Fund Construction of Knik Arm Crossing
Crossing offers four direct benefits to Alaskans; Public Financing to Come from Three Sources
WASILLA-Today, Governor Sean Parnell signed House Bill 23 pushing forward a plan to build the Knik Arm Crossing, which would span 1.7 miles between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. The $892 million project provides the infrastructure to move families and freight back and forth between Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley as well as Interior Alaska.
The most obvious benefit of the Knik Arm Crossing is providing an alternative route to the Mat-Su Valley and Interior Alaska from Anchorage. However, there are four other immediate direct benefits for Alaskans.
“I’ve heard this referred to as a Mat-Su Valley project,” said Senator Mike Dunleavy (R-Mat-Su Valley). “The reality is the bridge will benefit Anchorage more than the Valley-this is SouthCentral project. Folks from Anchorage will immediately start moving across the bridge for more affordable housing.”
Senator McGuire played an important role in the process carrying the bill on the Senate floor and Chairing the Senate Conference committee prior to the measure’s final passage in the last day of the Legislative Session.
“The health of our Anchorage Community, our families and our economy has been held back without room to grow,” explains Senator Lesil McGuire (R- Anchorage). “While the Knik Arm Crossing is one infrastructure project, it has the potential to provide myriad benefit to the residents of Anchorage, the Mat-Su, the Railbelt, and our state as a whole. From relief for the crushing housing market in Anchorage, a safe alternative for Valley commuters and northbound freight, and the economic lift it will allow, this is truly a mega-project…mega-benefit that is! It was a pleasure to work with the bill sponsors and the Governor to move this project forward.”
“I know from a very personal perspective, being from Eagle River, I have lived the day-in and day-out stress of commuting on the Glenn Highway,” said Senator Anna Fairclough (R-East Anchorage/Eagle River). “I have waited for hours after an accident closes the one artery we have to commute on. I’ve also seen how dangerous it becomes during bad weather, with people sliding off the road and rolling their cars as they rush to try to get home from work. It is time for a new solution, and I believe the Knik Arm Crossing is the right strategic project at the right time.”
“Now, we have the legislation, but the hard work is still ahead. We still need the persistence of Alaskans to make sure this project goes from a dream to reality,” said Senator Charlie Huggins (R-Wasilla). “Let’s keep the hard work going and finally get this bridge of opportunity built.”
“The Interior and North Slope depend on freight coming into the Port of Anchorage,” said Senate Majority Leader John Coghill (R-North Pole). “With dozens of new, large projects coming online on the North Slope, plus the ongoing economic expansion of Fairbanks, it is critical to the Interior there is more than one route available between the state’s two largest population centers. The Knik Arm Crossing is the infrastructure we need in place to create the economic boom we’ve been working so hard to accomplish.”
Four Immediate Direct Benefits for Alaskans:
#1) Jobs and Economic Benefits for Alaskans
The Knik Arm Crossing has tremendous economic benefits for both Anchorage and the Mat-Su Valley. At the very surface, the project is expected to create at least 1,500 construction jobs. Beyond that, the job growth numbers are staggering as the bridge would allow Port MacKenzie to expand and open up the entire south Mat-Su Valley to development, both commercial and residential.
#2) Affordable Housing in SouthCentral Alaska
Numerous studies have shown Anchorage is running out of residential, commercial, and industrial land. This has forced Anchorage into a real estate crisis, leaving behind no affordable housing and no incentives for businesses and corporations to want to come to Alaska.
According to the United Way of Anchorage, a household must earn $100,000 per year to buy an average priced home, $65,000 a year to afford a condo, and $50,000 a year to simply rent a two-bedroom apartment. That means workers in the 21 out of 25 most commons jobs in Anchorage cannot afford a two-bedroom apartment. Workers in 18 of these jobs can’t afford to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
In addition, according to a recent survey conducted by the Anchorage Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), nearly 60-percent of employers believe the cost of housing in Anchorage had become a detriment to hiring and retaining workers.
As dire as the residential property situation is, the commercial property situation is already worse with only a 2.1-percent vacancy rate.
According to projections, Anchorage’s population will grow by 20-percent over the next 20 years. Even more staggering, the Mat-Su Valley population is expected to increase by 76 to 100-percent in the 20 years.
#3) Increase Safety While Cutting Congestion
The Knik Arm Crossing would increase safety, reduce congestion, further infrastructure needs while addressing air quality problems. If something catastrophic were to cause significant damage to the Glenn Highway, the supply line between Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley and Interior Alaska would be paralyzed. This second corridor provides a critical alternative route during emergencies and evacuations.
In fact, according to Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF) estimates, it will take $600 million to add one lane in each direction of the Glenn Highway. If the existing level of service is to be maintained with traffic expected to nearly double in the next 25 years, a second Glenn Highway would be needed.
“By the time the bridge is built in approximately five years, there will already be an additional 10,000 vehicles using the Glenn Highway,” said Senator Fairclough. “As a commuter who uses that highway daily, and knows how much traffic is already clogging the lanes, we need a safe alternative which reduces congestion and provides room for emergency vehicles to respond.”
In addition, since the bridge would also reduce commute time between Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley, as well as provide a more efficient freight route between the Port of Anchorage and Interior Alaska and the North Slope, current levels of emissions would be reduced thereby mitigating air quality issues.
#4) Direct Link Between Anchorage and Fairbanks
Senator Coghill pointed out the many statewide benefits of this project: the bridge makes a direct link from the Port of Anchorage to the north, allowing truck and commuter traffic bound for Interior Alaska and the North Slope to bypass downtown Anchorage and Wasilla. Also, the bridge will reduce freight costs for Alaska’s Interior and North Slope an estimated $300 million over 10 years.
“Thanks to the oil tax reform we passed last year, we are already seeing a big jump in shipping activity up to the North Slope. The Knik Arm crossing will help us make these deliveries more efficient,” said Senator Coghill. “Last year, we passed the LNG trucking project, and having a more direct route from the Port of Anchorage to Fairbanks will help this endeavor and help to reduce energy costs for Interior Alaska residents.”