Anchorage, Alaska, is suing the federal government in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims over what it says is the U.S. Maritime Administration's (MarAd) "breach and complete abdication of its contractual responsibilities" as manager of a port improvement project.
Management of the project was "not handled competently," Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan said during a press conference earlier this week
"Any of those involved in the project need to be held accountable for what their actions were," Sullivan added. He said more than $400 million was raised from federal, local and state sources. The city's complaint says MarAd's responsibilities included spending $302 million
that the Municipality of Anchorage provided and expenditure of $139 million of federal funds appropriated by Congress. Sullivan said $132 million was still unspent.
"We don't feel, as a customer, that we received the product that we should have received for that expenditure. It's important that we take all legal actions that are necessary so that all those who are stakeholders in the project, which includes the entire state of Alaska because the port serves the entire state — that they are made whole and ultimately get the product that should have been delivered over the past six or seven years," he said.
Sullivan said he and his administration are committed to ensuring that the "Port Intermodal Expansion Project" is successfully completed. Work is expected to begin within the next couple of weeks with the development of a project management plan with a newly awarded project manager, CH2MHILL.
Ironically, CH2MHILL, along with Integrated Concepts and Research Corp. and PND Engineers was sued last March by the city in Anchorage Superior Court over construction at the port. The case was later moved to federal court. CH2MHILL was sued because in 2007, it acquired a firm called Vecco Alaska that had done work on the Anchorage project.
In a press release, the city said the plan will be
a "comprehensive framework, continually updated, to ensure the project is organized and delivered within budget, on schedule, and with the proper project controls established." The city said a project management office within its port administration will be staffed full time by the project manager, Lon Elledge of CH2MHILL, and his core team members.
The city said the Port of Anchorage provides an estimated 90 percent of the merchandise goods for 85 percent of Alaska's populated area. This includes more than 200 villages and rural towns across Alaska. It is the major point of entry for containerized cargo in Alaska and fuel for Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, Ted Stevens International Airport and Southcentral and Western Alaska. Annually, around 240,000 containers move through the port.
The lawsuit says an attempt to use a design using sheet piles to expand the port was flawed. Contractors had trouble driving piles, and many were damaged.
"Rather than properly address the situation by, for example, devising additional pile driving methods, or revising the project's design to accommodate the actual site conditions, the parties to the project began pointing fingers at one another and continued upon the same course," the lawsuit says.
Sullivan said damages to the city will be determined during the trial, noting that some portions of the new construction may be useable. He also said a negotiated settlement might be possible.