Whittier excited about ‘once in a lifetime’ project

Published: Nov. 23, 2021 at 8:07 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - These are tough times in Whittier, as the community dealt with a second season of no large cruise ships.

“We can’t survive. We can’t raise property taxes. We just absolutely can’t do it,” said City Manager Jim Hunt. “So this is why this project is really a lifeline at this point for us.”

The project is what the Huna Totem Corp. wants to build on the west side of town next to the Whittier Tunnel. A new dock that would handle two large cruise ships at once, something the city can not currently do, highlights the first phase of the “Head of the Bay Project.” A new boardwalk, train depot, and a bus turnaround area are also included, with the cost ranging between $70-$80 million.

“This provides an activity where people will stay, and spend their dollars here,” Hunt said. “And, ideally as it’s being proposed, because it’s over a mile away, there will be a measure of control as far as how many people come right into our town proper, so we’re not overwhelmed.”

Future plans, according to the corporation, include a cultural center, a lodge, campground, and RV park. Hunt believes the project will pay off for Whittier in more ways than just jobs.

“We’ll have a solid tax base,” he said. “We’ll be able to replace aging water and wastewater infrastructure that’s been here since World War II. New roads that are right now in fair to poor shape.”

Hunt said Whittier may have found a major new source of money to pay for those improvements, and a lot of other things down the road, including more boat slips, new housing, and multi-level parking areas.

The Whittier City Council, according to Hunt, could vote on whether to proceed with the project in December.

Both sides said construction on the first phase could start during the first part of 2022, and could be finished the following year.

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