PUBLISHED: 4:47 PM on Wednesday, July 9, 2008
Stevens: Larger transportation system needed
U.S. Army helicopters that are assigned to the Stryker Brigade landed at the Port of Anchorage June 5. The helicopters will be partially disassembled and shipped with the rest of the Stryker Brigade equipment later this month. Photo/Rob Stapleton/AJOC

Alaska needs to develop a larger transportation system to support resource development and its access to international trade, Sen. Ted Stevens told the state's exporters.

"Alaska does not have the access that they have in the Lower 48. What we need to do is develop more roads, more land transportation," he said.

Stevens, speaking at the annual Export Alaska Luncheon May 27, said the largest state in the nation has the smallest road system.

"Here in Alaska we have 40,000 miles of coastline, and 250 or so state-owned airports and only a few thousand miles of roads," Stevens said. "The federal government needs to support continued development of our natural resources and to do this we need to improve our transportation infrastructure."

Alaska has plans for spending more than $600 million in projects for fiscal year 2009 for its 5,603 miles of road and bridge upgrades statewide.

Alaska makes up two-thirds of the continental shelf of the U.S. and has half of the coal deposits in the nation. The Port of Anchorage a necessary venue for the Arctic, Stevens said.

"The Port of Anchorage is not only necessary for Southcentral Alaska, not just for Alaska but for the Northwest Territories also," he said. "This is a strategic port for supplies and for our military bases."

Stevens said that the port is the only deepwater port with marine services available to shippers should the Northwest Passage open up for use due to climate change.

Port Director Bill Sheffield told business leaders in May that the $700 million expansion project currently underway is worth the money for Alaska's future.

The project will place the docks 400 feet farther into the inlet compared to the existing dock, and will be 1.8 miles long. The work is also creating 500 local jobs.

According to Alaska Department of Transportation figures, the state plans to spend more than $1 billion on general transportation projects next year.

The overall state breakdown is: $615 million is for roads and bridges, $41 million for marine highway work,$212 million for rural and international airports, and $13 million for harbors.