Federal ‘BUILD’ grant is a promising signal to those involved in TSAIA cargo expansion plans

Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport regularly ranks as one of the busiest cargo hubs on...
Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport regularly ranks as one of the busiest cargo hubs on Earth. On average, 100 cargo flights arrive in Anchorage, daily.(KTUU)
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 8:09 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport is regularly billed as the “fifth busiest cargo airport in the world.”

“From a cargo perspective, we’re seeing at least 100 aircraft arrive a day at the airport,” TSAIA Director Jim Szczesniak told Alaska’s News Source on Friday afternoon.

Plans have been announced to move forward with a $220 million expansion at the airport, which would add 715,000 square feet of space for the purpose of cargo storage.

“We’ve got a great asset in the airport and we are trying to maximize it. By having this facility here, it’s really going to give our airline customers the power to use this airport better,” Szczesniak said.

The recent announcement of a $21 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Alaska Energy Authority is a promising sign to those who are involved in the planning and negotiation processes for the expansion. The money is being provided through the DOT’s Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development, or “BUILD,” Transportation Discretionary Grant program.

The funding is to be utilized in the construction of a nearly $88 million, 190,000 square-foot cold storage facility. According to AEA executive director Curtis Thayer, the grant was issued after his organization applied on the grounds that funding is made available to ensure that energy efficiency and sustainability are priorities during the design and construction of the facility.

“When we look at this at the airport, it makes sense. The cargo facility makes sense, but then to put the money toward energy efficiency and renewables, that was kind of a ‘bite at the apple’ that we were testing .... and they took it,” Thayer said.

The cold storage facility is a small portion of the overall expansion project, but Thayer says his organization is excited to play a role and he hopes this grant can be a kick-starter to get things rolling.

“That’s a game-changer for shipping seafood through. It should be a game-changer for people shipping peonies — which is a new market up here — and just for general goods, like groceries that actually come through the airport,” he said.

If negotiations over a lease agreement are settled in a timely manner, the parties involved could break ground sometime between the coming winter and spring of next year. From there, if the process goes ahead as scheduled, the facility could be operational in the summer of 2022.

The construction should generate about 800 temporary jobs. Once completed, the facility will also bring 100 permanent jobs to the area.

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