Resource Development Council

RDC Comment Letter:
Support for the Knik Arm Bridge

August 27, 2010

The Honorable Secretary Ray LaHood
US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Dear Secretary LaHood:

The Resource Development Council (RDC) is writing to encourage the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help move forward in a timely manner the Knik Arm Crossing project in Anchorage, Alaska. The Knik Arm Bridge is a regional connectivity project that will provide a critical infrastructure link between our communities, as well as a much-needed freight and service connection between Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Interior Alaska.

RDC is a statewide, non-profit business association comprised of individuals and companies from Alaska’s oil and gas, mining, forest products, tourism and fisheries industries. RDC’s membership includes Alaska Native corporations, local communities, organized labor and industry support firms. Our purpose is to encourage a strong, diversified private sector in Alaska and expand the state’s economic base through responsible resource development.

The Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority is seeking your assistance in obtaining TIGER II grant funding for this project to cover increased expenses due to delays and additional assessment requirements imposed on the Knik Arm Crossing by the addition of the Cook Inlet beluga whale to the Endangered Species Act. As part of ongoing federal economic stimulus programs, DOT has available $600 million in TIGER II grants designated for infrastructure projects across the country. This grant money is to be awarded on a competitive basis to projects that will have significant impact nationally, regionally or on a metro area. The Knik Arm Crossing is a well defined and permitted project that is only awaiting a Record of Decision (ROD) from FHWA before it moves to the public/private partnership phase for design and financing feasibility.

The Knik Arm Crossing will have a significant long-term impact on Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which is the 31st fastest growing community in the U.S. The project will also provide benefit to the Southcentral and interior regions of Alaska by providing a more direct route for freight moving north of Anchorage. The Port of Anchorage receives over 80% of the incoming freight for the state, and a significant amount of that freight is then trucked north to cities and towns for use or further distribution to more remote areas of the state. Overall, 65 percent of the state’s population will directly or indirectly benefit from the proposed bridge.

The bridge will also serve as an important alternate transportation link between Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley. In addition, it is important to note that providing an alternative safety corridor for Alaska’s largest city makes sound sustainable economic sense. It will reduce commuting time for residents and open access to undeveloped land needed for both industrial and residential expansion. The undeveloped area two miles north of Anchorage that will be directly accessed by the bridge and its approach road will expand the single-family housing options that are presently constrained by a lack of residential building lots in the Anchorage Bowl. Industrial land needs will also be served by the bridge and will allow for the growth and expansion of industry while still affording ready access to the port, airport, and business centers in Anchorage.

The Knik Arm Crossing is a project ready to move to the design and construction phases. It has an approved Environmental Impact Statement and the ROD from the FHWA has been anticipated for several months now. Assuming the private developer’s economic analysis establishes a financeable project, design and construction will provide hundreds of jobs to the metro areas to be served by the bridge.

The Knik Arm Crossing would provide a much-needed economic boost to Alaska, create thousands of jobs, improve access to natural resource development and provide regional transportation connectivity between our communities and ports. On behalf of RDC, I request your serious consideration and support for TIGER II grant funding for the Knik Arm Crossing.

Resource Development Council for Alaska, Inc.