SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Gravina Access

By Dave Kiffer


January 22, 2018
Monday PM


Chris Herby's recent letter about Gravina Access touches on some very important points. Most notably that, after all the years and all the millions of dollars of federal money that was appropriated and spent, access to the airport, on the most basic level, will not appreciably improve.

As an elected official who was involved in many of these debates and discussions, I find the final State decision of how to proceed as disappointing as Chris does.

Once the decision was made - really more than a decade and a half ago - that a bridge was not a financially viable option, the State Department of Transportation should have been looking at solutions that improved the frequency and lowered the local cost of the ferry service.

Instead it focused on things like improving parking, building a road to a bridge that was never going to be built, and making the ferry system redundant in the event of infrastructure failures.

Originally, it did consider the possibility of having a second ferry operate between Peninsula Point and the former sawmill property several miles north of the airport. But it never considered whether the Borough - which must fund much of the airport ferry operations itself - would have been able to make the second ferry pay for itself.

In light of the fact that running a single ferry costs more than it takes in, the second ferry would have just put the Borough operations even further in the hole.

At one point, the Borough suggested that the State use some of the millions in remaining federal dollars to just subsidize the ferry service and possibly even create a ferry fund where the principal ($40 million plus) would generate interest that could fund the ferries and reduce the fares enough to encourage more use and to also allow for more frequent (every 15 minute) service as suggested by Chris in his letter.

The State said that Federal Highway Administration rules prohibited such use of the funds. The Borough contacted the FHA and the FHA said the money could be used for that purpose. The Borough relayed that information to the State and the State just smiled and shrugged.

Over the years the State has stepped in with some subsidies to help with ferry operations and also with funding to purchases new ferries when necessary.

But it is a shame after all this time and money, that we are essentially left with the same limited system that we had before it all began.

An opportunity for real improvement has been lost. Forever.

Dave Kiffer
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: Dave Kiffer is a long time resident and former Borough Mayor who remembers when the state and federal governments promised to build a bridge to Gravina, more than 40 years ago. He also wishes the ferries ran every 15 minutes.


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received January 20, 2017 - Published January 22, 2018

Related Viewpoint:

letter Ketchikan Airport & Access By Chris J. Herby




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