Local News

Ferry’s driver discount gone after winter 2014

The fast ferry Fairweather sails near Angoon in Chatham Strait in 2010. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

The fast ferry Fairweather sails near Angoon in Chatham Strait in 2010. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

Drivers will continue to travel free on the Alaska Marine Highway, at least through next April. That’s according to a schedule released by the state-run ferry system on Friday.

After the winter 2013-2014 ferry schedule concludes on April 30, 2014, passengers driving a car onto the ferry will have to pay for a ticket for themselves. A separate, 30 percent discount for round-trip tickets will disappear earlier, on Oct. 1, 2013.

The ferry system said in a statement that the move is to make up for a smaller budget. The state cut the Marine Highway’s operating budget by about $3.5 million for the next fiscal year.

“Every department in the state received a reduction in their operating budget. This is the amount that was given to AMHS,” said Jeremy Woodrow, a spokesman for the Marine Highway. “The Department of Transportation had cuts across the board, and this is just AMHS’s amount for their operating budget.”

The Marine Highway also plans to save money by returning the fast ferry Fairweather and the M/V Taku back to service a little later in the spring. The Fairweather is undergoing a massive overhaul this winter. It includes new engines, which are the result of a settlement between the state and the engine makers, after the Faireweather and its sister ship, the Chenega, experienced repeated engine problems.

For Sitka, the schedule includes approximately one northbound sailing and two southbound sailings every week. That goes against the city’s wishes for two boats north and two boats south every week. A letter from the city to the Marine Highway in April protests the plan, saying “one northbound ferry per week for seven months severely restricts Sitka’s use of the ferry system.”

Woodrow says geography is definitely a factor in Sitka’s schedule.

“It’s not on a line-to-line route, as a lot of communities are along the Marine Highway System, especially in Southeast Alaska,” Woodrow said. “For instance, if you’re going from Ketchikan north, you hit Wrangell and Petersburg in pretty easy concession. But when you have to go out to Sitka, you have to jog left instead of continuing on. It takes time to get there, so it’s difficult to schedule all the ships to get to that direction and back in enough time.”

The complete winter schedule is online at ferryalaska.com.

The ferry system’s summer 2014 schedule will come out sometime in the fall, after the state asks for public comment.

 

Comments

Please read our comment guidelines.

Recent News

Transportation planners look to road-and-ferry solution in SE

The M/V Columbia, recently re-powered, is not one of the three ships which could possibly be retired soon. (Flickr/Gillfoto)
State planners still see a road across Baranof Island as an important part of transportation infrastructure -- though it may take decades to become reality. The Department of Transportation held an open house and informational meeting in Sitka this week (8-20-14) on the latest draft of the Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan. And while maintaining and refurbishing the ferry system is high on the list of priorities for the region, major road construction -- both in Juneau and in Sitka -- remains on the books. more

Dry weather to bring relief for HPR drivers?

Contractors roll out the CABC, or "Crushed Asphalt Base Course," in preparation for paving HPR outbound from SeaMart. The DOT says the road will be finished -- or have a temporary surface -- by the end of the paving season mid-September. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)
Sitka drivers frustrated by poor road conditions on Halibut Point Road during this summer’s paving project can take heart: It’s going to get better. Al Clough, the Southeast Regional director for the Department of Transportation says that while heavy rains have been a setback, the road will be done -- or a driveable temporary surface in place -- by the end of the paving season a month from now. more