By: Eric Ruble
ANCHORAGE – Aside from terminal additions in the 1970s, the Port of Anchorage has largely remained the same in the 54 years since the first dock was finished. A journey underneath the port — to both the terminals constructed in 1962 and the ‘70s — reveals the dilapidated state of the structure.
“In many cases, the welds start to fail,” said Todd Cowles, the port’s engineer, pointing out a corroded pile, or pillar, under the port. In some areas, the corroded steel can be scraped off with the swipe of a finger. “A significant earthquake, we expect, would cause damage down here.”
Protective steel “jackets” have been placed around the most corroded piles, but Cowles said they are only designed to last 15 to 20 years.
“It’s just not economical to keep Band-Aiding,” he said. “We’re never going to find the seismic capacity that structural design demands now with these jackets.”
The port already has $127 million secured for the first phase of their modernization program. The second phase requires an additional $290 million, all of which is being requested from the state. The director of the port, Steve Ribuffo, said the project would increase efficiency, not capacity, although expanding the port’s capacity would be easier after the modernization is complete.