Legislators Hike Funds To Keep Ferries Going

JUNEAU (AP) — The Alaska Legislature has approved a $66.7 million budget appropriation that lawmakers said should keep the Alaska Marine Highway System running for the year.

Legislators increased the operating budget for the state’s ferry service by around $20 million over the previous year, CoastAlaska reported  Monday.

An estimated 42% of the overall $122 million ferry budget is expected to come from ticket sales for passengers, vehicles and freight.

The appropriation should guarantee at least one ferry is available as relief if another vessel breaks down, Republican state Sen. Bert Stedman said.

“So we don’t face again what we faced this winter, which was no service at all,” Stedman said. He called that situation “totally unacceptable.”

The budget adds another $19 million for repairing the ferry Aurora, which is laid up because of cost-cutting, and adding crew quarters to either the Hubbard or Tazlina to extend their ranges.

The two ships are the system’s newest, known as Alaska Class Ferries. But as currently configured, they serve as relatively short-range day trip boats.

“The intent of the legislature is to keep the Aurora,” Stedman said. “We support crew quarters to make the Alaska Class Ferries more versatile.”

The operating budget includes about $16 million more than Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed, which should provide about 25% more service, according to Department of Transportation figures.

Dunleavy proposed a $49.9 million ferry service appropriation in the budget he submitted in December, which was an increase over the $46 million approved by the Legislature in May 2019.

Cuts to the system’s budget have been compounded by maintenance and other issues, prompting the Alaska Department of Transportation to contract with private companies to transport people on smaller catamarans with no vehicles or heavy freight were allowed.

Independent Rep. Dan Ortiz said the Legislature wants to bring stability back to the state’s ferry network.

“I think we’ve put the marine highway system in the place where they should be able to provide adequate service throughout the system,” Ortiz said. “As long as the governor doesn’t veto those monies.”

A veto remains among Dunleavy’s options. A $250,000 study commissioned by the governor found that privatizing the ferries is not feasible. He appointed a working group to recommend ways to cut costs.

 

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AK COVID-19

At a Glance

(updated 9-28-22)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 12:15 pm Wednesday, September 28.

New cases as of Wednesday: 546

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 282,928

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,329

Total (cumulative) hospitalizations – 3,955

Case Rate per 100,000 – 74.91

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "High.'' Case statistics are as of Wednesday.

Case Rate per 100,000 – 117.30

Cases in last 7 days – 10

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,358

Hospitalizations (to date) – 29

Deceased (cumulative) – 7

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.

 

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20 YEARS AGO

September 2002

Photo caption: Bus drivers Derrell John and Sabrina Smith stand next to the new Community Ride buses at Crescent Harbor bus stop, which serves as a transfer point. The two public transportation buses will run two routes, one along Halibut Point Road, the other along Sawmill Creek Road. 

50 YEARS AGO

September 1972

 Photo caption: Bill Willis, the new owner-manager of the Dip’n’ Sip in the Triune Building serves up another ice cream cone for a pleased customer. Bill and his wife Dorothy purchased the business from JoAnne Harris. Along with the ice cream treats, sandwiches and soups will be added to the menu.

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