State Partnership with Southeast Conference Established to Reform State Ferry System
May 23, 2016
(SitNews) Auke Bay, Alaska - Governor Bill Walker signed a memorandum of understanding Thursday establishing a partnership between the state and Southeast Conference, a regional economic development organization, to reform and revitalize the state’s ferry system.
“For over 50 years, the Alaska Marine Highway System has served as a critical transportation link for Alaska’s coastal communities,” said Governor Walker. “The ferries are a lifeline in many communities, and the economic benefits are felt throughout the state.”
Governor Walker Signs Memorandum of Understanding with Southeast Conference to Improve Ferry System as other officials look on...
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
In recent years, the AMHS has experienced rising costs and decreasing budgets. Ferry users have expressed concerns about service reductions, system unreliability and interruptions in service. The state’s current fiscal challenge adds imperative to taking a comprehensive look at the mission, governance, financing and operations of the state’s ferry system, with a goal of ensuring the system’s long-term viability. Input from stakeholders across the state will be a hallmark of the process initiated by this MOU.
“The ferry system is an essential part of our statewide transportation infrastructure,” said Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott. “I look forward to a robust process of public engagement as we look to transform the system for the future.”
Southeast Conference was incorporated in 1958 to lobby for a regional transportation system that eventually became the Alaska Marine Highway System. “Southeast Conference was instrumental in creating the ferry system,” said Board Chair Garry White. “We look forward to this new opportunity to help move the marine highway system into the next phase so it can continue to provide vital transportation to many of Alaska’s remote communities.”
MV Taku docked at the Ketchikan Shipyard 2016.
Constructed at the Puget Sound Bridge & Dry Dock in Seattle in 1963.
Photograph by CARL THOMPSON ©2016
Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Marc Luiken, who has oversight of the AMHS, welcomed the collaboration: “I’m grateful that Southeast Conference is willing to partner with the State on this project. Working together, and reaching out to all stakeholders, I’m confident we can find the best path forward for this valuable component of our transportation system.”
A February 2016 report by the Juneau-based McDowell Group found that the state-run ferry system generates a return of more than $2 to the state for every $1 invested. The report also found that Anchorage residents were the number two source of bookings, after Juneau, and that over half of all summer ferry passengers visit Anchorage.
While two-thirds of AMHS users are Alaska residents, the system also generates significant tourism dollars, with AMHS nonresident summer passengers spending an average of $1300 per person while in Alaska. In 2014, the AMHS carried 319,000 passengers, 108,000 vehicles, and almost 4,000 container vans.
On the Web:
MOU between State of Alaska and Southeast Conference
McDowell Group report on economic benefits of AMHS
Study Finds Widespread Economic Benefits of Alaska Ferry System & Impacts of Reduced Service By MARY KAUFFMAN
Edited by Mary Kauffman, SitNews
Source of News:
Office of Gov. Bill Walker
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