Join other Southeast Alaskans calling on the state to use federal funding to replace the aging mainline ferries in the Alaska Marine Highway System.
The state Department of Transportation acknowledged in the recent draft Southeast Transportation Plan that the mainline ferries – the largest ships in the fleet that can sail most routes in the marine highway system – need to be replaced by 2024. That’s less than a decade away.
The state has not planned for those replacements because officials say the state budget is too strapped. But federal money CAN be used to fund ferry replacements. Since the Alaska Marine Highway is federally recognized, just like any vital road system in the country, Federal Highway Administration funding could be used to build more ferries. We are encouraging our state leaders to seek out that federal funding for the marine highway.
Southeast Alaska residents depend on the ferry system as their connection to communities throughout the region. It supplies our towns with jobs, tourism, freight and a way of life.
But more than that, the aging ferries are becoming a safety issue. Breakdowns are a routine occurrence, interrupting vital transportation to our communities and raising concerns about what malfunctions at sea could mean.
The state also says the budget is too tight to operate the ferries at the same level of service. But maintaining ferry service to Southeast communities is vital for our economies and livelihood.
We encourage the state to seek federal funds for mainline ferry replacement and maintain state funding for ferry operations. We love our ferries and our communities.