More revisions needed after partial federal approval of key state transportation plan

Construction in Downtown Anchorage. Photographed in Downtown Anchorage on Thursday, August 10, 2023. (Dev Hardikar/Alaska Public Media)

State lawmakers got some new details Tuesday about the federal government’s partial approval of a document outlining federally funded transportation projects.

The Federal Highway Administration gave the go-ahead to a revised Statewide Transportation Improvement Program in late March after rejecting an earlier submission. But the “partial” in “partial approval” means there’s a lot of work left to do, Transportation Commissioner Ryan Anderson told the House Transportation Committee on Tuesday.

“We are ongoing with follow-ups at this time with Federal Highways,” Anderson said. “We’ll be having a debrief next week with the Federal Highway Administration to continue on to some of the items that we have questions on with the partial approval as well.”

Six of the more than 200 projects outlined in the planning document were excluded from approval. Federal officials flagged three projects that should have been included in the planning documents for local transportation planning groups but were not. Federal officials say other projects didn’t have clear funding plans or were incorrectly grouped together.

The Federal Highway Administration lists six pages of revisions to the planning process that must be made within the next six months. Additionally, Anderson said the state must provide more details on dozens of projects all across Alaska before they’re approved.

Even so, Anderson said the delays are not likely to bog down construction this summer.

“We’ve awarded over $300 million in construction contracts. And that’s, you know, continuing work that’s on the street that everyone will see out there this summer, so we haven’t slowed down,” he said.

In another change, Anderson said projects that experience significant cost overruns will require approval by the federal government in a formal amendment to the transportation plan.

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