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Revised KABATA Bill Passes Legislature

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Apr 25 2014 03:21:38 PM AKDT
KABATA Land Acquisition

JUNEAU -

The Alaska Legislature approved a conference committee report making major changes to the power structure of the organization in charge of the proposed Knik Arm Crossing.

The legislature established the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority in 2003. The agency was put in charge of the design and construction of a bridge between the Port of Anchorage and Port MacKenzie.

On Friday, the legislature approved a bill putting the Department of Transportation in charge of the bonding and construction of the bridge.

KABATA will be in charge of “operating, maintaining and collecting tolls for the bridge,” according to DOT Spokesperson Jeff Otteson.

The bill also authorizes the DOT to seek federal highway loans for the project.

“The Knik Arm Crossing is a vital infrastructure project that will open up the lower Susitna Valley and help create an alternate route between our largest population bases,” said Rep. Mark Neuman, (R-Big Lake).

Neuman sponsored the original version of HB23 last year that would have placed the AlaskaHousing Finance Corporation in charge of KABATA.

Phase one of the project is estimated to cost $782 million. Critics of the project say the bridge will actually cost between $1.7-2.0 Billion.

Rep. Les Gara (D-Anchorage) says the cost of building approach roads, and extending Knik Goose Bay road toward the bridge isn’t included in the current financing plan.

On Wednesday, the legislature failed to concur on that legislation triggering a conference committee that met once Friday morning before submitting the bill to the legislature.

It passed the Senate 14-4, and the House 28-10. The bill heads to Governor Sean Parnell’s desk for his signature.