ANCHORAGE — Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has withdrawn the city’s support for a controversial $20 million dollar transportation project due to the state’s “current fiscal restraints.”
Berkowitz issued a letter to the State Commissioner of Transportation Friday outlining his decision to pull funding for the Northern Access Project, which connects Elmore Road to Bragaw Street. Work on the project, which is also known as the U-Med District Road, will now stop, The Alaska Public Radio Network reported.
Berkowitz said the project is not the city’s highest priority. He is asking the state Legislature to re-appropriate the leftover $17 million to the Port of Anchorage, which he says is Anchorage’s most immediate infrastructure need.
“The current fiscal restraints facing the State of Alaska and Municipality of Anchorage have already forced significant cuts to capital programs that force us to focus on highest priority needs, not wants,” the letter states.
Berkowitz noted that the Northern Access Project has been opposed by the majority of neighboring community councils. He also said there was no agreement between the municipality, the state and other interested parties on who will be responsible for possible cost overruns.
Geran Tarr, who represents some of the communities that would have been impacted by the road, says she believes the mayor’s decision was influenced by community concerns over the project’s environmental and quality-of-life impacts.
“I hope this process encourages people that it can work out,” Tarr said. “Your voice can be heard”
Officials with the University of Alaska Anchorage have been longtime supporters of the project. Vice chancellor of administrative services Bill Spindle said several organizations stand in opposition of Berkowitz’s decision.
“We’ve talked to all the other main organizations in the U-Med District, they’re also disappointed,” he said. “So, I think you could probably rightly say we all are concerned about what the mayor decided to do.”