Anchorage’s new main facility for handling garbage is opening its doors this week.
The city has spent the last three years building a new Central Transfer Station, an upgraded version of the current drop-off site for residential and commercial refuse, as well as hazardous household waste. About 80% of the municipality’s waste moves through the Midtown center, most of which is then trucked north to the Anchorage Regional Landfill in Eagle River.
But the city’s trash needs have outgrown the old transfer station, which was converted from a garbage shredder built in the 1970s. According to a presentation from Solid Waste Services, the municipal utility that runs the facility, the outdated setup is “noisy and smelly,” unable to accommodate the hundreds of vehicles sometimes lined up to drop off garbage, or sufficient room for new recycling infrastructure.
The new building is on an adjoining property in the same part of Midtown, off East 56th Avenue, north of Dowling Road and west of the Seward Highway. But it includes a much bigger structure and a revised traffic flow designed to move customers in and out more efficiently.
“It’s supposed to make things a lot easier, faster,” said Kelli Toth, information manager for Solid Waste Services. “You don’t have to wait in line for people that are dropping off garbage.”
Officials broke ground on the facility in 2020, and construction continued through the pandemic largely on pace.
Though estimates at the time put the project in the neighborhood of $114 million, Toth said a revised figure was not available Tuesday, as work is ongoing.
“We still have a lot going on behind the scenes that is not finished,” she said.
The utility paid for construction through increases to garbage collection fees, which for decades were below market rate, according to Midtown Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who chairs the Enterprise and Utility Oversight Committee.
“Customers have paid for the Central Transfer Station,” Zaletel said.
The new facility is intended to extend the life of the Anchorage landfill, an essential piece of infrastructure that otherwise was projected to run out of space in about 40 years. With more room for processing refuse, and more systems for diverting material away from the dump, waste managers hope to bury less garbage in the landfill and keep it operable longer.
Solid Waste Services is inviting the public to tour the new center on Thursday, with an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and a ribbon-cutting ceremony at noon.
“We really are encouraging people to come and visit the observation deck,” Toth said. “It’s going to give us a great window into what’s being buried out at the landfill. It’s actually quite shocking.”