The Alaska State Legislature has passed legislation authorising the Alaska Railroad Corp (ARRC) to sell bonds to fund the replacement of its passenger dock and terminal in Seward.
It will now go to Alaska’s governor for approval. Once it is approved, ARRC will be able to sell up to $60 mill in bonds to replace the ageing dock in Seward.
This dock is a critical connection to the thousands of cruise passengers who arrive in Alaska each summer and then go on to travel throughout the state, boosting Alaska businesses’ economy.
“We are grateful for Senate President Peter Micciche (Rep) and House Transportation Committee Chair Rep Grier Hopkins (Dem) for introducing and shepherding this bond authorisation through the legislature,” said ARRC President and CEO, Bill O’Leary. “And, we are thrilled the legislature provided its resounding support for this vital project that strengthens Alaska’s cruise market in Southcentral Alaska.
“Now, we will get to work making this new dock and terminal a reality for the benefit of our tourism partners across the state who are ready to welcome cruise guests for decades to come,” he said.
Because ARRC has its own bonding powers, none of the project costs for the replacement of the dock and terminal facility will come from the state. Total project costs are estimated at nearly $80 mill to replace the existing dock and terminal facility. Revenue bond debt will be repaid from dock user fees.
The remaining costs will come through existing dock fees and ARRC capital funds.
The project is being fast tracked with support from Royal Caribbean Group, a longtime partner of the Seward cruise ship terminal. ARRC and RCI are finalising a multi-year berthing agreement that features an annual revenue guarantee.
RCI has three brands calling at Alaska in this year’s cruise season — Royal Caribbean International, Celebrity Cruises and Silversea Cruises.
“For those cruise visitors who want to get the most out of their Alaska vacation experience, Seward is at the top of their list,” said Royal Caribbean Group Regional Vice President of Government Relations for Alaska and the West Coast, Wendy Lindskoog. “Great guest experiences are inclusive of sound destination infrastructure, innovative ships, exceptional on board service and plenty of things to see and do in the communities we visit.
“For many years, we have benefited from the strong community and business relationships in Seward and the Alaska Railroad Corp’s pending improvements to the passenger dock will be critical to Seward’s continued status as a vibrant cruise transportation hub.”
With legislative approval, the ARRC is on track to invest more than $100 mill in the Seward community during the next five years through large-scale capital projects, including the passenger dock and terminal facility replacement.
There is also a separate project to upgrade the Seward freight terminal.
“The Alaska Railroad has been an excellent partner with the city and community, and we look forward to our continued partnership,” said Seward City Manager, Janette Bower. “We believe in this vital project and the economic benefit it provides through cruise ship tourism dollars for our local businesses, including commercial passenger vessel funds for both the city and borough, the marine industry in Seward and throughout the state.”
Under the current construction schedule, the new passenger dock will be operational for the 2024 season, while the terminal facility will open by 2025.