Study: Port of Anchorage Replacement Flawed

November 13, 2012

A new federally commissioned study says the problems with the Port of Anchorage replacement go as far back as the project’s design.

Top engineers with CH2M Hill told the Anchorage Assembly that three of four new sections already built at the Port of Anchorage were not constructed correctly, but even if they were, they risk failure during an earthquake due to shifting earth, the Anchorage Daily News reported Saturday.

“If it starts to move, then you’ve got potential problems. That’s what happened in the 1964 earthquake and that’s the worrisome thing about the design right now at the Port of Anchorage,” Don Anderson, who led the geotechnical team for CH2M Hill, told the Assembly.

He indicated the three new problem sections, which cost tens of millions of dollars, might not be salvageable.

But Mayor Dan Sullivan said it’s not known whether the work already done will have to be ripped out entirely.

Sullivan said perhaps different construction techniques and materials could make the current design more stable, he said.

CH2M Hill did the year-long, $2.2 million study for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the federal Maritime Administration.

The engineering company also has been contracted for a second phase at a cost of another nearly $500,000. That work is expected to be completed by February or March 2013 and will lay out options for completing the port project.

The existing structure probably could be made strong enough, said Larry McCallister, director of programs and project management for the Army Corps in Alaska. “The issue becomes … how much time, how much money is available and what you really want to do to make a usable facility.”

The Corps suggested the study after the city asked it to take over management of the project, which had been under the Maritime Administration, a request it is still considering, McCallister said.

CH2M Hill’s full, 2,200 page report is in draft form and hasn’t been released. It won’t be finalized and made public until mid-December, after the Corps of Engineers and the city’s Geotechnical Advisory Commission review and comment on it.

Assembly members on Friday were hearing the conclusions for the first time. They seemed stunned.

“I am going to go home and cry,” Assembly member Patrick Flynn, whose district includes the port, said after the briefing.

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