In advance of the April 5 Anchorage municipal election, the Anchorage Daily News asked candidates running for Assembly and Anchorage School Board a series of issue questions. Read all the Assembly and school board candidates’ responses here.
Q: What’s your assessment of Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure? How would you improve it?
District 2 - Seat A - Eagle River/Chugiak
We have seen some great projects in the last 10 years and still have a way to go. The Seward Highway to Glenn Highway should be nonstop, and we are moving that direction. We are blessed to have large areas of District 2 operate under CBERRSA. You can tell where our road service agreements begin, and the MOA maintenance ends. We would benefit from expanded road service agreements in our district since so many of our roads don’t get consistent service and road projects take a back seat to most other Districts. Our local contractors who take care of over 350 miles of roads have done remarkable work. This model should be expanded and used in other areas of government. You could also lump the Port of Alaska under this category and that must be addressed. It is a critical attribute to all of Alaska and is dangerously close to failure. The Port project is a giant game of “who’s going to pay?” The $367 million lawsuit we won could be reduced on appeal so we cannot rely completely on those funds yet.
Living in Chugiak, I can honestly say I’ve never used the Anchorage transportation system. I’m also handicapped and paralyzed from the waist down. So I frankly know very little about it. I would need to educate myself, and handicap service would be a top priority for me.
We often overlook public transportation as a vital part of our infrastructure. Chugiak-Eagle River has not received the public transportation attention it needs — not only between Anchorage and Eagle River, but within the community and JBER.
District 3 - Seat D - West Anchorage
Alaska’s infrastructure regularly receives a C- grade from the American Society of Civil Engineers, and Anchorage is no different. Anchorage needs infrastructure that better serves the existing needs of all transportation modes, whether that’s cars, public transit, bikes or walking. I’ve supported expanding the annual capital improvement budgets with much-needed projects such as the 32nd Avenue Upgrade (providing infrastructure for multiple modes of transportation), the Campbell Woods road and drainage improvements, the 58th/59th Avenues Reconstruction, the Ticia and Ashley Circles road and drainage improvements, and the Tasha Drive reconstruction. I supported adding construction and maintenance of secondary life/safety access roads as an areawide obligation. And I will continue to support our critical public transportation system by expanding the service to new lines like the popular Route 36 that provides service to the city’s Loussac Library.
Anchorage transportation needs improvement. An audit of the public bus system should be conducted to identify better the needs of the community. In addition, the condition of roads need improvement.
Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure is crumbling. Port, air, and rail need to be brought into the 21st century. We rely too much on the federal government to come fix our problems. These critical infrastructures must be able to bring critical goods to the citizens of Anchorage and Alaska at large. Let us not waste this batch of federal money as we did the last.
District 4 - Seat F - Midtown
Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure is in need of improvement. It should be a priority for the Assembly, and I would make it a priority. Also, since, Congress has passed such a large infrastructure bill, I would work to get some of that money for the Port of Alaska, which must be rebuilt or all of Alaska is going to be in a terrible situation.
The Port of Alaska is a top infrastructure priority for Alaska because it supplies essential goods and services to the entire Railbelt and is a critical element of national security. It is my goal as the Vice Chair of the Enterprise and Utility Oversight Committee to get the Port to design at 65% no later than 2024. This goal must be met so we don’t move backward if there is a change in administration. This has been an ongoing issue, and we don’t have the time or money to take any steps back. We must continue to move forward. I’m happy to say we have met a major milestone in the project by getting the Petroleum Cement Terminal through design and into construction, and on track to be completed by the end of the summer. I was early to support this project and kept it moving forward by working closely with Port users. It’s critical that we keep this focus and momentum.
District 5 - Seat H - East Anchorage
Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure clearly needs a lot of improvement. In most cases, that doesn’t mean large new roads or massive highway expansions, but rather repairing and improving the facilities that we have. In East Anchorage, we particularly need better snow removal, better drainage, and better pedestrian facilities. I am disappointed in the mayor’s decision to end progress on a stormwater utility, as that would have moved funding for drainage projects off of the bond and reduced residential property taxes. Still, in the years ahead I hope we can effectively go after state and federal funds for these kinds of neighborhood road projects, so that property taxes are not the only funding source. In addition, we need to continue to fund and improve both the trail and bus systems, and promote multimodal transportation options.
First thing I would do is I would make sure that the Anchorage stays in Anchorage. Second, I would make sure that the residency of Anchorage is affordable.
We should consider ways to improve access to the Mat-Su from Anchorage. We need to have more than one way in and out. Of course, the Port of Alaska is probably the most important transportation need that should be addressed. The Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood has ongoing needs for safety improvements.
District 6 - Seat J - South Anchorage
I think the roads are some problems. As long as we are on track to make them safer to travel, then we should not change it.
I would say that Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure is generally in good condition except for the Port of Alaska. I would support a bridge across the Knik Arm to provide access to more outdoor space, rural farming land as well as affordable land for future affordable housing. I do feel our public transit could be made more efficient and accessible, especially for the citizens of Girdwood and Turnagain Arm.
I get frustrated at every red light but the reality is, Anchorage has rare and light rush hour traffic. We can’t build our way out of the congestion. We have to try other things. I have worked over many years to move our system to accommodate better walking, biking and bus riding. We have come a long way over the years. Now “complete streets” are the default. Less cars on the road benefits the whole system. Building wider, faster roads is expensive and maintaining them is a burden. We have made large changes that have helped, like the Tudor/Lake Otis intersection and MLK extension. We need to make a decision soon on the Highway-to-Highway connection as Fairview is languishing with the uncertainty. I serve on the policy committee that allocates our federal transportation funds. A new system for ranking projects was a long-term project that passed in December. That will direct more funds to projects that implement the broad goals of our plans.
Read more Q&As with Anchorage Assembly candidates: