Anchorage port seeks military strategic designation

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2003

ANCHORAGE (AP) U.S. military officials are considering adding the Port of Anchorage to a list of strategic ports of departure, a move that could make it easier to get federal funding for a planned $227 million redevelopment project.

Port director Bill Sheffield said Monday the Military Traffic Management Command, which is in charge of moving troops and gear by land and sea, designates some commercial ports as ''strategic ports'' that can support major force deployments. It selects them on their proximity to deploying units, transportation links to those units and port characteristics.

The Army plans to transform the 172nd Infantry Brigade throughout Alaska into a unit using new eight-wheeled Stryker vehicles, which are designed to deploy rapidly.

Officials at the U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii already have given their nod to designating Anchorage's port a strategic port, and the MTMC, which has the final say, is expected to make a site visit in the next few months, Sheffield said.

''We're hoping it will be as quick as possible, because that designation would make it a lot easier to get federal funds,'' Sheffield said.

Federal money would be used to help pay for a huge overhaul of the city-owned port.

The centerpiece of the project, to be done in phases over the next five years, is a substantial addition to the main dock, expanding it 400 feet seaward.

Other pieces of the project include building cruise ship, barge and ferry terminals, improving rail access and deepening the harbor from 35 feet at low tide to 45 feet to accommodate larger ships.

A seismic study of Knik Arm's sea floor recently was completed. The report will be used to determine what kind of dock will be built. A full report on the findings is expected to be ready in about two months.

Preliminary environmental and engineering work on the first phases of the project, improving rail access and expanding the dock, is expected to begin this fall. Officials estimate that $180 million to $190 million in contracts will be awarded over the next few years.

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