Spending on the civilian and other interagency programs of the Corps of Engineers
will be similar to that of past years. This
spending typically funds Corps of Engineer projects for other federal agencies like
NOAA, FAA, and the BLM and projects done
in cooperation with Alaska communities,
such as harbor improvements.
The environmental program budget of
the Corps of Engineers, including Formerly
Used Defense Sites, varies from year to year
but is expected to be somewhat higher this
year. This program includes cleanup of hazardous substances and contaminants at former defense sites, as well as on current Army
and Air Force installations.
Transportation—Highways and Roads:
A majority of funding for highways (including
the Marine Highway System) comes as grants
from the federal government under a program
known as the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which became law at the end of
2015. This law requires a state match for receipt of the federal funds. Some federal funds
also go directly to Alaska Native tribal organization for transportation projects.
In addition, the state augments federal
funds for highway and road construction
with an annual capital appropriation to the
Department of Transportation and Public
Also, in some years the state Department
of Commerce, Community, and Economic
Development (DCCED) distributes grants
to local governments for road construction,
but little has been appropriated for grants
through DCCED since 2013.
Finally, the state also periodically sells
general obligation bonds to support road
construction as well as other infrastructure
projects. The most recent bond package was
approved in 2012.
It can take considerable time for transportation appropriations to become cash on the
street, so state funds from past capital budgets and bond sales are still contributing to
current spending. Consequently, the level of
spending this year will be a little higher than
last. Also contributing to the increase is the
re-obligation and repurposing of some previously unexpended funds.
These funds will pay for major projects
throughout the state on the Sterling, Seward,
Parks, and Glenn highways, as well as many
Local governments also spend on road
construction and maintenance. Anchorage
has a small bond issue for road construction
each year and other communities also bond
for road improvements on a regular basis.
Transportation—Airports, Ports and
Harbors, Railroad: $387 Million
Federal funds, mainly from the Federal Aviation Administration’s Airport Improvement
Program, provide the bulk of funding for
airport improvements both at the large international airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks and the many smaller state-owned
airports across the state. This continues to be
a stable source of funding that is augmented
by revenue bonds and other local sources. A
runway improvement project is scheduled
for Anchorage and other smaller projects are
scattered throughout the state.
Spending related to ports and harbors will
also be about the same as last year. Work on
the redevelopment of the Port of Anchorage
will be slow, and there will be no money to
continue development of the Point McKenzie
Spending from a combination of federal
funding, state general funds, the transpor-
tation bond package, tourist-related fees,
and local sources will underwrite projects
throughout the state, including significant
activity at Dutch Harbor, Skagway, Valdez,
Juneau, and Wrangell.
The Alaska Railroad’s capital budget will
be significantly higher this year, funded
through a combination of federal grants,
cash flow, and revenue bonds. The railroad is
moving forward with the Positive Train Control system, mandated by the federal government.
Education: $235 Million
Spending for education comes mostly from
state government, and it will again be lower
Direct state funding of urban and rural
schools will be about the same as last year but
consist of renovations and upgrades without any new schools under construction. A
number of rural schools are still awaiting
construction, but they are unlikely to move
forward this year.
The legislature’s moratorium continues
on the decades-old practice of reimbursing
municipalities for a share of the debt they incur to build new and repair existing schools.
That has more than doubled the price of new
UAA Engineering and Industry Building skybridge, constructed by Neeser Construction Inc.
Image by Orion