Alaska News Source: Transportation secretary tours Port of Alaska, talks investment in aging infrastructure

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Alaska’s biggest city Tuesday as part of a three-day tour of the state.

Buttigieg’s tour of the Port of Alaska on Tuesday provided a look at how federal dollars are being spent to improve the port. Alaska is the beneficiary of more than $5 billion in federal investments from President Joe Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure law, which was signed in November 2021.

“This is a port that faces unique challenges. There is no other place that I have visited that encounters the kind of tidal variations — the corrosive effects that you see here at the Port of Alaska — but also that is so singularly important to people across the state,” Buttigieg said. “It’s one thing to see that on paper. It’s another to get a direct sense of it, and we got a really great sense of it being on the ground.”

The secretary was joined by Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson and members of the Anchorage Assembly on the tour. The stop was the second of three days Buttigieg is spending in Alaska: the former presidential candidate spent time in Kotzebue on Monday with Sen. Dan Sullivan and will travel Wednesday to Juneau to join Sen. Lisa Murkowski for a tour.

“The thought that 90% of Alaskans depend on food, on cars, on resources that pass through this port, that this port alone handles nearly three-quarters of the state’s inbound cargo and gets things to military bases, rural Native Alaskan villages, and every place in between demonstrates the very meaning of critical and essential infrastructure,” Buttigieg said.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg discusses Alaska visit

During his hour and half tour of the Port of Alaska, Buttigieg was shown all the threats the port is facing. Bronson said the port is, “in great structural jeopardy right now.”

“The original terminals were constructed before many of us were born,” Buttigieg said. “After the better part of a century — as we’ve seen firsthand in today’s visit — the very foundations are beginning to corrode and come apart.“

Buttigieg visited the area of the North Extension Stabilization Project, which is part of the Port of Alaska Stabilization Program. In 2022, the port received a $68.7 million grant for phase one of the project.

“The investments that we make at this port today will pay off for the American people and certainly for the people of Alaska,“ Buttigieg said. “You ought to know, that $68 million award was the single largest award we made through this program last year. It came by way of President Biden’s work on getting this infrastructure law through.”

Port of Alaska spokesperson Jim Jager said the money for the project will result in much safer and more easily navigated berthing for vessels and cargo terminals.

“We’re going to remove a bunch of material that’s there, that’s not stable in order to provide the space for ships to continue operating and delivering food and cargo at terminal three, while we’re building the new docks at the south end of the dock, " Jager said. “One of our big challenges with this project is that we have to keep the facility open to keep bringing in the food and fuel and other consumer goods that the state uses every day.”

Buttigieg and others said the 2018 earthquake was a “wake up” to many on how important and fragile critical infrastructure like the port are to Alaska.

By:  Steve Kirch
Source: Alaska News Source