Ketchikan Airport & Access
By Chris J. Herby
January 17, 2018
As a community we all had no choice but to watch our long anticipated bridge to Gravina Island die a slow and miserable death. After our congressional delegation worked hard to get funding for our bridge, it was taken away from us due to negative coverage in the national fake news media. However, we were still left with roughly 90 million dollars to improve access to Gravina. Of course that isn’t enough to build a bridge but nevertheless it’s a large amount of money that should surly be able to improve access to our airport. Or maybe not. From what I have read, it appears that we are going to burn through that money and actually not improve our airport access at all. It is my understanding that after we spend all of that money, we are still only going to have access by a ferry every 30 minutes.
Back when the bridge was being debated, I always said we could do without a bridge if we had a ferry every 15 minutes like we always used to have during the busy summer months. The last time I traveled, it took over an hour to get to the town side of the Narrows after the plane landed. First, you miss the ferry due to the timing of the plane landing, then the next ferry is full, guess what? An hour goes by.
So, let's talk about how all that money is going to be spent. First, buy valuable waterfront property to increase parking. This makes no sense because it removes prime waterfront property from the tax rolls and puts it into government ownership which costs the Borough significant loss of property taxes forever. The wiser choice would have been to add a parking structure on the existing parking area that the Borough already owns. This would provide the needed increased parking, some of which could have been covered, and not remove valuable property from the tax rolls.
Next, build 2 new ferry ramps just in case one breaks down. This is very expensive and makes no sense. Granted, we do need vehicle access to the airport and things do occasionally break down. It would make more sense to refurbish both of our existing ferry ramps and standardize all of the components. Then have on hand spare parts for anything that can break, such as the hydraulic cylinder that caused the recent 2 day ramp closure. More covered walkways and waiting shelters is a great idea and will improve the quality of travel experience for our visitors.
I simply don’t understand how we can spend 90 million dollars of Gravina access money and not improve the access to Gravina. Why not increase the level of ferry service so it doesn’t take an hour to travel the quarter of a mile to our airport? It almost seems as though we are determined to blow that amount of money just because we have it. Even though I’m complaining about how this money is being spent, overall I have been very impressed with the management of our airport over the past decade. We have seen many improvements over at the airport that have made total sense and have improved parking and overall functionality of the airport. Our current airport management has done the best job of any that I can recall.
At the very least, we need every 15 minute ferry service during the summer season and busy holiday travel seasons.
Chris J. Herby
Received January 15, 2017 - Published January 17, 2018
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