PORT MACKENZIE—More than 70 new construction jobs were created at Port MacKenzie this summer as great progress is being made on two large construction projects.
• The $5 million barge dock expansion
The barge dock is expanding from eight acres to 16 acres, making it an ideal area for large industrial projects such as the fabrication of sealift modules or staging of pipe for the natural gas pipeline.
• A one-mile rail loop that will be able to handle a 100-car train
Port MacKenzie will be the only place in the state where the Alaska Railroad can offload bulk materials in an efficient loop.
There is also a 1.6 mile truck route from Point MacKenzie Road through the Port industrial area to Lu Young Lane. A ridge is being cut down to access Lu Young Lane.
The rail loop work was funded by a $17.5 million state appropriation two years ago. The barge dock expansion was funded by a $3 million stimulus grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a $1 million Borough in-kind donation of riprap, and a $750,000 state appropriation.
Wednesday, local Alaska legislators and their staff members saw firsthand the tangible results of their support. State Rep. Bill Stoltze—who led the effort for rail project funding—took in the view of the new rail loop.
Both truck and train cargo will be offloaded at bulk facilities and travel by conveyors to ships departing for countries such as Japan and China and South Korea.
Rep. Stolze, Rep. Wes Keller, and from Fairbanks, Rep. Jay Ramras, were among the group touring the sizeable construction projects. For their hard work, Elizabeth Gray thanked Rep. Stoltze, Sen. Charlie Huggins, Sen. Linda Menard, Sen. John Coghill, Rep. Carl Gatto, Rep. Mark Neuman, Rep. Keller and Rep. Ramras. Staff members from Huggins’ Menard’s and Neuman’s offices attended. Heather Brakes, the Legislative Director for Gov. Sean Parnell, was also among the group tour.
Gray thanked Borough Deputy Mayor Lynne Woods for the Assembly’s vision for the larger Port MacKenzie Rail Extension project that will offset property taxes and create up to 1,500 construction-related jobs alone.
Gray also thanked Alaska Department of Transportation Commissioner Leo von Scheben, who is also an Alaska Railroad Boardmember and Alaska Railroad Vice President of Transportation Pat Shake for their partnering efforts with the Borough on the project.
The Port MacKenzie Rail Extension will dramatically reduce transportation costs of bulk materials from the Interior to tidewater, spurring the development of new mines along the rail corridor. Up to a billion dollars a year in mineral production is possible during peak mine development. Such development is expected to generate some $300 million annually in state revenues and will diversify the state economy from dwindling oil revenues.
Several studies are on the Borough web site on the Economic Development page.
A final Environmental Impact Statement is expected this fall for the path of the new rail line to the mainline.
Photos by Patty Sullivan/MSB