Ferry System Fix Proposed
HB 294 Creates Marine Highway
Authority, Transfers Duties from AKDOT&PF
January 18, 2008
(SitNews) - Representative Peggy Wilson of Wrangell, Representative
Paul Seaton of Homer, and Representative Gabrielle LeDoux of
Kodiak have introduced legislation to create an Alaska Marine
Highway Authority. House Bill 294 will transfer the responsibility
for the management, operations, construction and facilities maintenance
of the state's marine highway system from the Department of Transportation
and Public Facilities to a new exclusive state agency.
The Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) has been transporting
people, vehicles and other goods throughout coastal Alaska since
the mid-1960s. They operate in the context of an intermodal transportation
network. "The state is spending more money and getting less
service. This is unacceptable and we have to make significant
changes to the entire system. We don't have to work harder, we
have to work smarter. We don't have to spend more money, we have
to spend it more wisely," said Rep. Wilson.
"In the last five years, we have seen a gradual degradation
of services from the AMHS," said Rep. Seaton. He points
to the fact that we still do not have a 2008 summer schedule
published yet, which is particularly problematic since no one
can plan or buy tickets until the schedule is published. "This
is detrimental to our burgeoning tourist industry," said
Of the top ten locations that people visit in Alaska covered
by the ferry system in part are Anchorage, Mat-Su/Denali, Fairbanks,
Valdez, the Kenai Peninsula, Juneau, Sitka, and Ketchikan.
"I want to make sure the system works for the benefit of
the many Alaskans and visitors who use the AMHS. The present
course is leading towards disaster," said Rep. LeDoux.
All three legislators say that the intent of this legislation
is to create a dialogue between all users of the marine system
to improve and support the economic vitality of our coastal communities
by increasing the accessibility and mobility of people and freight.
"We need stabilization and capitalization for a new fleet
of vessels to replace our aging 'blue canoes,'" said Wilson.
"What is missing from both DOT/PF and AMHS is resolve and
a vision of where the marine highways should be in the next 20
years. We're determined to focus attention on our marine highways
and be an advocate to ensure the people, businesses and communities
served by the marine highways have a stronger voice in the legislature,"
This bill will first be heard in the House Transportation Committee.
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Representative Peggy Wilson of Wrangell
Representative Paul Seaton of Homer
Representative Gabrielle LeDoux of Kodiak
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