Work begins on $200M Anchorage airport cargo facility near Kincaid Park

A federal agency has cleared the way for construction of a $200 million cargo terminal on the south end of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, near popular Kincaid Park.

The NorthLink Aviation project is seen by airport officials as an important development that will create jobs and new parking spaces for jumbo jets at one of the world’s biggest cargo airports.

“This will be one of the largest new developments at the airport in a number of years,” said Craig Campbell, the airport’s general manager.

Plans call for construction of an 80-acre parking apron, a 90,000-square-foot warehouse for storing and transferring cargo, and 15 hardstands — essentially parking lots for cargo planes where they can refuel and plug in for power.

The project, on mostly wooded land north of Raspberry Road and the Anchorage Amateur Radio Club building, has faced strong opposition from nearby residents concerned about pollution at the park and in their water wells.

Sean Dolan, NorthLink’s chief executive, said the company has gone to great lengths to reduce environmental impacts and address residents’ concerns.

The Federal Aviation Administration, the permitting agency, said the project “would not cause any significant environmental impacts that cannot be mitigated,” according to its 20-page decision.


The decision says NorthLink will build the first glycol recovering and recycling facility in Alaska, to capture and reuse the chemical used to de-ice aircraft, reducing environmental risks across the airport from that chemical.

Survey work to build the access road began this week, Dolan said. NorthLink plans for the jumbo-jet parking spots to be operational by October 2024. The warehouse is set to be completed by October 2025.

The airport has already started extending Taxiway Z, called the Zulu runway, near the project. Dirt-loaded trucks have been rumbling to the area daily. The runway extension will allow 747 cargo jets to access the new facility. The extension plan predated NorthLink’s project, Campbell said.

“We’re excited to pivot from focusing on permitting to getting into construction and bringing this important project to reality,” Dolan said in an interview.

Cargo service expected to grow

NorthLink is calling its project an e-commerce and express freight terminal. It’s one of multiple efforts underway to expand cargo services at the airport.

Other projects include FedEx expanding its operation to add a regional sorting facility for Alaska, and Alaska Cargo and Cold Storage pursuing a large cargo transfer and cold-storage facility west of the U.S. post office.

The FAA’s decision said cargo activity is expected to continue increasing at the airport, but there aren’t enough cargo facilities. It said some gates at passenger terminals are used as “a secondary priority or contingency basis for cargo aircraft parking.”

The NorthLink facility will help the airport transition into a full-service stop for cargo aircraft, a step beyond its current role as a pit stop for refueling and crew changes, the agency said.

[Previous coverage: Why Anchorage’s international airport is such a big cargo destination — and how it could get even bigger]

The airport, less than 10 hours from nearly every industrialized country, has vaulted higher as a global cargo hub as shipments increased during the pandemic. It was the third-busiest cargo hub in the world last year, behind Hong Kong and Memphis, Tenn., where FedEx is based.

“Additional cargo facilities would create long‐term economic growth in Alaska by creating permanent job opportunities,” the FAA said in its decision. “(The airport) presently supplies one in seven jobs in Anchorage and generates $1.84 billion in economic benefit.”

New plane parking spots planned

Some investment money for the NorthLink project came from the Alaska Investment Program, an arm of the $80 billion Alaska Permanent Fund until the program was canceled this year. Dolan says the amount is small relative to other investments in the project. He declined to say how much.

NorthLink says it has signed multiyear agreements with international cargo carriers to use the terminal.

Dolan said the cargo warehouse will include an area for cold storage that could support shipments of high-value Alaska fish to Asian countries or elsewhere. In addition to storing other products, it will house spare parts for carriers, such as tires.

NorthLink is talking with U.S. Customs and Border Protection in hopes of creating customs clearance at the warehouse so consumer electronics from Asian countries, such as laptops, won’t need to be flown to the Lower 48 for that approval. It could help Alaskans and Lower 48 customers receive electronic devices faster, he said.

“That can relieve congestion on major gateway airports” such as Los Angeles International, he said.

“I think the (Anchorage international airport) is the biggest unexploited logistics opportunity in the world, and it comes down to infrastructure, and the technology to be able to facilitate these movements, and coordination with government entities,” Dolan said.


Environmental plans

Linda Swiss, a member of the Sand Land Community Council airport subcommittee, lives south of the project and helped lead opposition to it.

“We are disappointed to see the project move forward,” Swiss said, referring to opponents in the area, in an emailed statement.

She said residents near the project did not get “resolution on monitoring increased noise, air pollution, glycol overspray from de-icing aircraft, and further contamination to our drinking water wells.”

Swiss said residents want the state and airport “to address protection of our drinking water.”

Dolan said he’s working with local, state and federal officials in an effort to get houses in the area hooked up to city-provided water, instead of the wells many use.

The residents have raised concerns that cancer-linked PFAS chemicals have been found at the airport around NorthLink’s leased property, and that the project could threaten their well water.

In a discussion about PFAS, the report says the project “is not expected to encounter any contamination during construction activities.”

Dolan said NorthLink has taken a variety of steps to avoid any environmental impacts to Kincaid Park users and residents.


The company will supply planes with in-ground power so they won’t need to burn jet fuel for auxiliary power, reducing carbon emissions and noise, he said.

A 700-foot, tree-covered buffer will separate the project from Raspberry Road and the neighborhood. Dolan said it will consist of 500 feet of existing forest, plus a wide berm that’s 25 feet tall, topped with new trees.

The FAA report says the company is taking other steps, including positioning lights onto airport operations and installing a blast fence to redirect engine exhaust. It said trees and brush will obscure the project from trail users.

“Because the (project) is over 1,000 feet from Kincaid Park and further from patron resources such as trails, no visual impact to Kincaid Park is expected,” the report says.

It says “operation of the facility, including taxiing of multiple aircraft simultaneously, will not result in significant noise impacts.” Kincaid Park is closer to the airport’s east-west runway to the north and already encounters airport noise, but it remains popular, the report says.

The FAA said glycol-based de-icing fluids are one of the primary activities contributing to water pollution at airports. It said the glycol recovering and recycling facility will reduce the risk of glycol pollution at the airport.

“Overall, impacts to water quality resulting from glycol use at (the airport) will decrease due to the glycol recovery and recycling system,” the report says.

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Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or