State transportation officials say they’re planning to charter private ferries this month to fill some of the gaps in ferry service in Southeast Alaska.
The Alaska Marine Highway System’s regional service has been shut down since January, following the breakdown of the Matanuska ferry.
The Department of Transportation put out a request for information last week giving potential operators about 24 hours to express interest in filling in this month.
Deputy Commissioner Mary Siroky said Monday that the agency received several responses. She told lawmakers on the House Finance Committee that there’s the potential to move both people and freight between Juneau, Haines and Skagway soon.
“We recognize that if we can move palletized freight, we would need to give those communities some amount of time so that they could get freight where it needs to be,” she said. “We’re hoping, by the end of this week, have a good idea of how we might be able to fill in for some service that we recognize people need.”
The public notice specifically sought services to the villages of Angoon, Hoonah and Kake. Residents in those three communities have reported shortages of food and other goods during the ferry shutdown.
The ferry Tazlina is slated to return to service early next month restoring connections to much of the upper panhandle. There are also plans for special runs to Cordova to accommodate the commercial fishing season.
The state hasn’t announced plans to restore service to other communities left off the winter schedule. Those include Prince William Sound ports as well as the island communities of Tenakee Springs and Pelican.
Under a draft schedule, they might not see a state ferry until the end of the year.