Alaska Railroad Gets Bond Authority to Replace Seward Dock

May 31, 2022 | Government, News, Transportation

The Seward intermodal dock

The Seward intermodal dock and passenger terminal at the head of Resurrection Bay, in the shadow of Mount Marathon.

Alaska Railroad Corporation

Alaska lawmakers agreed to give the state-owned railroad bonding authority to finance a replacement of the terminal and passenger dock in Seward.

$60M for an $80M Upgrade

Both chambers of the Legislature approved Senate Bill 218 as the session ended in Juneau last week. Pending the governor’s signature, the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) could sell up to $60 million in bonds for the dock project.

“We are grateful for Senate President Peter Micciche and House Transportation Committee Chair Representative Grier Hopkins for introducing and shepherding this bond authorization through the legislature,” says ARRC President and CEO Bill O’Leary, “and we are thrilled the legislature provided its resounding support for this vital project that strengthens Alaska’s cruise market in Southcentral Alaska.”

The passenger dock in Seward is considered a critical connection for thousands of cruise passengers who arrive in Alaska each summer and then travel deeper into the state, often by rail car.

Total project costs are estimated at nearly $80 million to replace the existing dock and terminal facility. With ARRC using its own bonding powers, none of the project costs for the replacement of the dock and terminal facility will come directly from the state treasury. Revenue bond debt will be repaid from dock user fees. The remaining costs will be paid through existing dock fees and ARRC capital funds.

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“Now we will get to work making this new dock and terminal a reality for the benefit of our tourism partners across the state who are ready to welcome cruise guests for decades to come,” O’Leary says.

The project has support from Royal Caribbean Group, a longtime partner of the Seward cruise ship terminal. ARRC and Royal Caribbean Group are finalizing a multi-year berthing agreement that features an annual revenue guarantee. Royal Caribbean Group has three brands visiting Alaska this season: Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises, and Silversea Cruises. 

“For those cruise visitors who want to get the most out of their Alaska vacation experience, Seward is at the top of their list,” says Royal Caribbean Group’s Regional Vice President of Government Relations for Alaska and the West Coast, Wendy Lindskoog (a former Alaska Railroad executive). “For many years, we have benefited from the strong community and business relationships in Seward, and the Alaska Railroad Corporation’s pending improvements to the passenger dock will be critical to Seward’s continued status as a vibrant cruise transportation hub.”

With legislative approval, the ARRC is on track to invest more than $100 million into Seward infrastructure over the next five years. In addition to the passenger dock and terminal replacement, there is a separate project to upgrade the freight terminal.

“The Alaska Railroad has been an excellent partner with the city and community, and we look forward to our continued partnership,” says Seward City Manager Janette Bower. “We believe in this vital project and the economic benefit it provides through cruise ship tourism dollars for our local businesses, including commercial passenger vessel funds for both the city and borough, the marine industry in Seward, and throughout the state.”

Under the current construction timeline, the new passenger dock will be operational for the 2024 season. The terminal facility would be operational by 2025.

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The track of oil and gas development in Alaska shows the footprints of bold companies and hard-working individuals who shaped the industry in the past and continue to innovate today. The May 2024 issue of Alaska Business explores that history while looking forward to new product development, the energy transition for the fishing fleet, and the ethics of AI tools in business.

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