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New Alaska ferries need $30M in work before entering service

December 27, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An additional $30 million in public money is needed to install crew quarters on Alaska’s two new ferries, the Alaska Marine Highway System said.

Adding crew quarters will allow the ferries Tazlina and Hubbard to be used on longer routes than originally planned, the Anchorage Daily News reported this week.

The new ferries were designed for specific roles, but cuts to ferry service means the ships will need to enter general service. With the state’s budget constraints, two older ferries will likely be taken offline as the two new vessels begin operations, leaving a hole in the system’s routes.

“People can be frustrated about the expenditure of money and the change of plans, but the reality is that our plans changed for us,” said Shirley Marquardt, director of the system. “We’re reacting in the best way we can.”

Coast Guard regulations limit ferry crews to 12-hour workdays. A roundtrip from Juneau to Haines and Skagway would likely take one of the new ferries 14 hours, according to the system’s projections.

“We have two boats that the department says don’t meet their concept of service delivery and we can’t use them. That to me is the mind-boggling, mind-blowing issue at hand,” said Robert Venables, chairman of the Alaska Marine Transportation Advisory Board.

In addition to the cost of crew quarters, tens of millions of dollars will also be needed to construct support facilities for the vessels, the advisory board revealed at its meeting last week.

New facilities to accommodate the ferries will be needed in Chenega Bay, Talitlek, Pelican, Cordova and Whittier, according to board documents. The cost for all five is estimated to be $25 million, said Capt. John Falvey, general manager of the system.

Money to install crew quarters would come from the Marine Highway System fund, Marquardt said. The work could begin this summer if the state Legislature authorizes the expense.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration has not yet responded to the newspaper’s questions about whether or not it supports the proposal.

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Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com

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