Alaska continues to learn what the federal infrastructure bill will look like for the state

The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to have a big impact on Alaska, but forecasting how it will be spent is still a work in progress.
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 10:23 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is set to have a big impact on Alaska over the next five years, but forecasting how the money will be spent in Alaska is still a work in progress.

For the past two months, Miles Baker has been working as Alaska’s Infrastructure Investment Coordinator, appointed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Baker gave a presentation on the infrastructure bill for the House Finance Committee on Thursday.

“There’s a lot more we don’t know than we do know about this bill,” Baker said. “It is a very large piece of legislation.”

During Baker’s presentation, he explained how the infrastructure bill is different from the previous federal money that came through the state recently – such as those from the CARES Act.

“Those were really designed to get the money out quickly. This is, in essence, a five-year reauthorization of established federal programs,” Baker said.

He added that a majority of these funds will come through existing programs. For example, Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities will see an increase in their existing formula funds.

“There’s a lot of transportation needs in this state,” said department Commissioner Ryan Anderson. “So in short we’re accelerating some things to make sure that this year you will see an increase in construction out there and it’s primarily projects that were scheduled for 2023 construction that we can move up into 2022.”

They also received $45 million in the first year for bridge repairs, and Anderson said there will be a lot of bridge work done across the state through that funding. He added they’re still waiting on further guidance about their funding from the federal government.

The infrastructure bill will provide opportunities for new spending, like Denali Commission, which received $75 million through the federal funds. The group was established in 1998 by the late Senator Ted Stevens and aims at funding economic development and infrastructure in rural Alaska

“I’m encouraging folks to think about this bill, not as a stimulus measure,” said Denali Commission Federal Co-Chair Garrett Boyle. “... This is a long-term investment in infrastructure. So this is agencies getting a lot of money, but over the course of five years. ... We’re not going to see this huge, dramatic impact I don’t think all in one year, but we’ll see a good, steady impact over the course of five.”

There are six commissioners on the board for the Denali Commission and Boyle said they’re providing strategic direction and discussing how they can approach spending the money.

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