City to hire private management team to oversee port completion

Nathaniel Herz

The city will hire a private management team to oversee the next phase of construction at Anchorage's problem-plagued port expansion, Mayor Dan Sullivan said Friday.

The city plans to issue a request for proposals for a manager within the next two months, he said at a news conference at City Hall.

Sullivan also discussed the results of a pair of studies released earlier this week that showed missteps with the port project's oversight and design.

"We're going to work diligently to make sure that we hire folks with very appropriate experience in projects of this nature, which was one of the problems in the past," he said.

The port expansion, which dates back a decade, was originally managed by the U.S. Maritime Administration, or MARAD. Initial construction used an unconventional steel design that bent and twisted when crews used massive hammers to try to drive it into place; that led to work halting after the 2009 construction season, and it hasn't resumed.

One of the two investigations, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation's inspector general, said that MARAD failed to do its job overseeing contracts and costs.

Another study, conducted by a private engineering firm, backed a prior report by an engineering company that said the port's design was flawed and could collapse in an earthquake.

Sullivan and his team will now select a new design for the port from five options presented by engineers CH2M Hill, according to Lindsey Whitt, the mayor's spokeswoman. The private managers will then develop the concept into a final design, she said.

The new management team will be paid roughly 10 percent of the total cost of construction, though a price tag is still unclear, Sullivan said. More than $300 million in federal, state, and local funding has already gone into the project, some of which has to be torn down.

Sullivan said that the city would be pursuing "a variety of sources" of money to pay for the rest of the construction, including more state and federal dollars, though he acknowledged that extracting additional funding from Washington, D.C., could be tough.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at or 257-4311.