Saxman Ferry Terminal Construction
Could Begin Next Year
By Marie L. Monyak
April 25, 2006
Ketchikan, Alaska - A showing of the preliminary designs of the
Saxman Seaport AMHS Ferry Terminal and updates on the progress
of the project was the topic at a public open house at the Saxman
Tribal House on Monday evening. Approximately twenty people
attended to hear from the project staff from the State of Alaska
Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, and from
the Federal Highway Administration.
Project staff provided detailed conceptual designs of the Proposed
Upland Actions for the Saxman Seaport and handouts detailing
the project timeline and description of the proposed undertaking.
On the left addressing
the crowd is DOT&PF Project Manager Jim Heumann and on the
right is City of Saxman Mayor & Ketchikan Borough Mayor Joe
Photo by Marie L. Monyak
The timeline was most noticeable as it projected a completion
of the Saxman Ferry Terminal in late 2007 or early 2008. As
this project has been talked about for some time, it appears
that it may be realized within only a few more years.
In 2000, the State began discussions with the City of Saxman
about construction of an Alaska Marine Highway System ferry terminal
and service to Metlakatla. With the Waldon Point Road project
well underway on Annette Island, the idea of providing fast service
from Ketchikan to Metlakatla appeared to be a project worthy
of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOT&PF).
In November of 2005, members of the DOT&PF met with members
of the City of Saxman to answer questions and receive input regarding
the project. At that time, the City of Saxman, although they
voiced some reservations, expressed a desire to locate the ferry
terminal at their seaport facility.
During that time the conceptual designs were drawn up. The rest
of the project is moving forward in a timely fashion with the
environmental process due for completion within the next few
months, the permitting completed by the end of this summer, the
right-of-way acquisition accomplished by fall and constructions
bids advertised in November of this year.
Construction is expected to begin on the terminal next year but
everything hinges on what the people of Saxman decide. The State
wants to buy the land at Saxman Seaport but several residents
at Monday's meeting expressed serious concerns about a reversion
clause being included in the terms of the sale.
One member of the audience stated that should anything happen
in the future that would cause the state to abandon the terminal,
she wanted to be assured that the property would revert back
to the City of Saxman and wanted to know what the city would
be expected to pay. Several members in the audience agreed saying
they wanted a reversion clause in writing and felt certain that
the City of Saxman would not have the funds in the city coffers
to buy back the land at the same cost that the State is expected
to pay for it.
DOT&PF Project Manager
Jim Heumann made it clear that it was the residents that asked
the State to locate the AMHS ferry terminal in Saxman and he
said in agreement with those present, "The City of Saxman
has plenty left to discuss with its City Council and amongst
Andy Hughes, DOT&PF Southeast Planning Chief, Ray Preston,
DOT&PF Right-of-Way, and Heumann, pointed out the many improvements
that would benefit the City of Saxman. Not only would they construct
a small terminal building but they would be improving the access
road and removing the railroad track and ties.
Map courtesy of AMHS
Click on the map to view a larger image.
Marie L. Monyak is
a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
Construction of the new AMHS terminal building would include
a sewer system as well as water, electric and phone services.
Heumann stated that they would be willing to work with Saxman
to convert the marine outfall from the Saxman Warehouse as well.
In addition to the terminal building and access road there would
be 47 short term parking spaces provided along with the 600 foot
staging lanes. The project calls for the removal of 5 existing
dolphins and the installation of 4 new lead-in dolphins at the
entrance to the basin besides a new mooring float along the northern
Concerns were mentioned about the marine environment and disturbances
to the eco-system. One member of the audience spoke about the
subsistence use of the area. Jane Gendron, DOT&PF Project
Environmental Coordinator eased their fears explaining that there
would be no fill added nor any dredging in the area and Heumann
reminded everyone that currently the Saxman Warehouse has marine
outfall discharge in the subsistence area that could be removed
with the construction of the new sewer system thereby improving
the area substantially.
Later in the presentation, Heumann also brought up the idea that
Saxman could capitalize on the project by providing long term
parking, restaurants or a hotel. The possibilities are endless
when one looks at the number of people traveling to and from
Hughes, the Planning Chief, threw out some interesting numbers
for the audience to think about. At a time when the Alaska Marine
Highway System is coming under fire for low ridership and high
operating costs, the Metlakatla runs are showing a marked improvement
in the last year.
From April 2004 to March 2005, the M/V Lituya made scheduled
runs between Metlakatla and Ketchikan and carried 10,820 passengers
and 3,554 vehicles. When a second run was added so passengers
could make a round trip in one day, ridership increased considerably
to 20,249 passengers and 6,827 vehicles which was an 87 percent
increase in passengers and 92 percent increase in vehicles.
What all these numbers translate to is reduced operating expenses
which lowered the State's subsidy for the Lituya, from $400,000
in 2004 to only $130,000 in 2005.
The projected cost for the design, right-of-way and construction
of the Saxman terminal stands at 7.75 million dollars with 6
million dollars coming from the federal fuel tax with the remaining
balance paid for by the state.
Heumann reminded everyone that the purpose of the new terminal
is to shorten the transit time between Ketchikan and Metlakatla.
He stated that for 10 to 12 years there have been a number of
agencies; the state, military, Bureau of Indian Affairs and the
Metlakatla Indian Community involved in the 40 million dollar,
14.7 mile Waldon Point Road project. Upon completion of the
road which is expected in two years, the state will be constructing
a AMHS ferry terminal at Annette Bay which will further shorten
the trip to and from Ketchikan.
Currently the run time from Ketchikan to Metlakatla is 90 minutes.
Upon completion of the Saxman terminal that time would be trimmed
down to 65 minutes. When the Waldon Point Road is complete and
the terminal at Annette Bay constructed, the run from Saxman
to Annette Bay will be a mere 18 minutes! With the addition
of the new terminals the frequency of the daily runs would increase
accordingly from the current 2 round trips to as many as 6 round
trips in a day.
But first the road on Annette must be completed. The military
fully expect to have their portion of the project completed by
2007. With an additional 25 million dollars expected from congress,
the balance of the project can be funded out commercially. It's
expected that the road will be totally complete and drivable
by the fall of 2008.
The Metlakatla Indian Community had sent William Wilson as their
authorized delegate to speak on their behalf along with Judith
Eaton, Executive Tribal Secretary. Wilson spoke about the importance
of the new terminals and the shorter transit times for his community
stating that Metlakatla is fully behind the project.
The addition of the two AMHS ferry terminals and shorter transit
time will benefit Metlakatla greatly and the City of Saxman,
with a little vision, will have the opportunity to fill its city
coffers from new enterprises directly related to the terminal
and its passengers.
A freelance writer is an uncommitted independent writer
from whom a publisher, such as SitNews, can order articles for
For information about freelance writing services and costs contact
Marie at mlmx1[at]hotmail.com
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