Alaska News

$5.6 billion Alaska transportation plan largely approved by the feds

JUNEAU — Most of Alaska’s $5.6 billion, four-year transportation plan was approved by the federal government Wednesday, allowing for construction projects across the state to be funded.

The State Transportation Improvement Plan, or STIP, is a comprehensive plan for highways, roads, ferries, and even bicycle lanes to be implemented in Alaska through 2027.

The state’s previous transportation plan was rejected last month by federal highway administrators after significant errors and problems were flagged with dozens of proposed projects. The state Department of Transportation scrambled to correct those issues before a March 1 resubmission deadline.

Six of 234 projects in the transportation plan were rejected as written by federal highway administrators. Dozens of other proposed projects will need additional work over the coming months to get approval for federal funding.

Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson said through a prepared statement Wednesday that he appreciated the work of his staff and federal agencies to ensure Alaska’s transportation plan was partially approved.

”Alaska’s project development will continue seamlessly, and our upcoming construction season will be robust,” he said.

One rejected project was to help renovate the ailing Don Young Port of Alaska. Jim Jager, a deputy port director, said he was “confused” why that $69 million grant was listed in the state’s transportation plan. It has already been awarded and largely spent, he said. Jager said he thought there had been confusion with a separate and pending request for road funding at the port.


State transportation plans are typically approved by October, the start of the federal fiscal year. Alaska has been the only state still waiting months later for federal approval of its four-year transportation plan.

Local transportation planning organizations in Anchorage and Fairbanks said in August that there had been no coordination from the state before a draft plan was unveiled. They flagged significant errors in the plan and raised concerns that the Dunleavy administration had planned projects within their municipal boundaries without their approval, which would be a violation of federal regulations.

A 30-page letter sent Wednesday from the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration said that the state’s plan needed to document public engagement processes and how regional groups and tribes were consulted. The state Transportation Department has said it will improve its public consultation process.

After the state’s January transportation plan was rejected, legislators asked for a list of projects that were going to be removed from the resubmitted plan. That way, legislators could consider using state dollars to help fund those construction projects as needed.

Shannon McCarthy, a spokesperson for the state Transportation Department, said Wednesday that a complete list of removed projects was still not ready.

In a Wednesday interview, McCarthy said one phase of a planned Seward Highway upgrade between Potter Marsh and Bird Point had been removed from the March resubmission. She said the $169 million multi-year project was ineligible because part of the highway fell within Anchorage municipal boundaries. To receive federal funding, it needed to go through the local planning process and get approved by Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transportation Solutions, or AMATS, she said.

Federal highway administrators had warned the state for months that there were significant unresolved issues with the state’s transportation plan before the February rejection notice. Legislators had been alarmed that the initial rejection notice meant the summer road construction season could be in jeopardy.

The news that the state’s transportation plan had been partially approved Wednesday sparked relief among labor and construction groups.

Alicia Amberg, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of Alaska, said by text message that the group representing 600 contractors was pleased to see a resolution had been reached by the state Department of Transportation.

“We are ready to roll up our sleeves and work with DOT to ensure efficient, timely project award and delivery for the 2024 construction season and stability for future projects,” Amberg said.

Joelle Hall, head of the Alaska AFL-CIO, said Wednesday afternoon that she was still reviewing the partially approved transportation plan.

“My only comment is - whew!!!” Hall said by text.

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Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire is a politics and general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Juneau. He previously reported from Juneau for Alaska's News Source. Contact him at