The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Fern Greenbank
LOG Editor 

Grant awarded to railroad for expansion planning


The Seward Marine Industrial Complex is one step closer to a reality now that the Alaska Railroad had been awarded $2.5 million for planning funds related to its planned dock expansion, said a release from Sen. Mark Begich’s office last week.

The award is the result of persistence, said Tim Sullivan with the Alaska Railroad and Ron Long, Seward’s assistant city manager.

Long said this is the second time the railroad applied for funding under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program. When the first application was not successful, the city became a bigger partner in the second application.

“SMIC and the dock are closely aligned,” said Long. “They go together.”

Long said there have been times when vessels have been turned away because there is no dock space, leaving barges to kill time going around the bay waiting for space and burning expensive fuel. This is a major step forward for the entire SMIC project, said Long.

Sullivan said the railroad is looking for ways to diversify just as smart business practice, and not because coal prices have been declining. The railroad’s current dock facility is centered on the transportation of coal in partnership with Usibelli Coal.

“We want to grow in all areas from coal to freight to passengers to petroleum products,” said Sullivan. “It’s important as a business community to look at inter-modal models that utilize ships, trains and planes for example.”

In August, Sen. Begich visited Seward with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. In the release issued by Begich’s office, the senator said the visit paid off because Foxx was able to see firsthand what the money would be funding.

“These grant funds will be used to develop plans for the Seward dock expansion, a project that will provide family-wage jobs and increase transportation and economic growth in Seward and throughout the state,” said Begich.

The funds will be used to conduct a series of studies related to the improvement of the west dock, which is said to be nearing “the end of its useful life.”

The studies will include a passenger study, freight traffic study and transportation connectivity study.

Sullivan said the city and the railroad will probably be applying for future grants under the TIGER program and he’s confident they will be in a good position to receive funding because they will be in “the system.”

“We have to show that the TIGER grant was put to good use,” said Sullivan. “We want to manage it well and build a good track record for the future.”


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