Access to Ketchikan Airport
By Chris J. Herby
August 06, 2021
I am writing about a problem that I feel needs to be addressed by our Ketchikan Borough Assembly. It pertains to our access to our airport. I have written about this before.
When the plans were first made public for the Gravina access improvement project currently underway, I wrote that it really won’t be improving access to Gravina. I stated that after spending around $80 million we will still only have the same ferry every 30 minutes.
I received phone calls from DOT officials and airport management explaining that the available funding could not be used for increased ferry service. I understand that. However, something needs to be done to actually improve our access to our airport.
The current improvements are certainly going to be very nice with increased parking, covered waiting areas, and improved passenger pickup areas.
Up until about 8-10 years ago we had 2 ferries operating during the busy summer months. Since then Delta has started flying into Ketchikan and it seems passenger traffic in general has increased. Virtually every time I take a vehicle over to the airport lately, I have to wait for 1 or 2 ferry round trips before I can return. It takes almost as long to transport a passenger to the airport as it does to fly to Seattle. This is absurd and it’s only going to get worse.
Now there are plans being discussed to expand and improve the airport terminal. That is great! It’s good to plan ahead and improve our transportation infrastructure and our airport is vital to our community.
However, our current airport ferry situation is a serious choke point. It is equivalent to having a section of 4 lane freeway connected to another section of 4 lane freeway by a 2 lane highway. Traffic will be backed up on both ends.
Yesterday I transported a guest to the airport with my vehicle because it was raining extremely hard and he had a large amount of luggage. I dropped him off very fast with the intent of catching the same ferry back across. It worked out fine timing wise, but the ferry was full and couldn’t accommodate all of the vehicles. So, I waited another 30 minutes for the next ferry. The next ferry also filled up without having room for me. So, after waiting another 30 minutes I made it on. This time of year there are many large shuttle vans, freight trucks, fuel trucks etc., that fill up deck space on the ferry.
My main question is simply why could we have 2 ferries during the summer 10 years ago but not now? Most of the year 1 ferry is sufficient but definitely not May through September. As a community, we need to address this problem.
Chris J. Herby
Received August 05, 2021 - Published August 06, 2021
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