Dunleavy administration seeks $12M for struggling Alaska Marine Highway

The state ferry Aurora sails near Skagway. As of February 2020, the Aurora is out of service and in need of repairs. (Creative Commons photo by Gillfoto)

The governor’s chief of staff Ben Stevens said the executive is asking the Legislature for extra money to continue work on Alaska Marine Highway System ferries currently out of service for upgrades and repairs.

The number one priority for this administration right now for the (Alaska) Marine Highway System is to get boats operable — because they’re not,” Stevens said at a Tuesday morning gathering of civic and business leaders, at Southeast Conference in Juneau.

All but the fleet’s smallest ship — the shuttle ferry Lituya that runs between Ketchikan and Metlakatla — is either down for repairs, or laid up to save money.

Stevens said the $12 million request would be for steel work on the ferry LeConte, and for upgrades to the Alaska Class Ferries Tazlina and Hubbard. The state wants side doors allowing them to load and unload more efficiently.

That would leave about $4 million for operations.

Stevens didn’t mention the LeConte’s sister ship Aurora, which also needs steel work. But he did say the transportation department is moving forward with its plan to build a seasonal terminal at Cascade Point that would shorten sailing times between Haines and Juneau’s road system. He didn’t say how much that project would cost.

Stevens said the governor is in the midst of putting together a working group to steer the future of the state’s ferries. But he predicted that it’ll be a slow process to get the ferries back up and running.

“This year it’s going to be problematic trying to find a solution to get those boats operable for the upcoming season,” he said. “And we understand the difficulty that it’s created in Southeast, and I don’t want anyone to think that we don’t, because we do.”

Last month, the House and Senate tried — and failed — to muster enough votes to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s veto of $5 million in extra ferry funding.

 

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