Alaska scales back ferry project

KETCHIKAN — The state is scrapping plans for a 350-foot ferry in favor of two smaller ships.

The move came after estimates to build the larger boat grew from $120 million to $167 million, Gov. Sean Parnell announced Tuesday in Ketchikan.

The estimate was expected to grow even more as the design became more fine-tuned, the Ketchikan Daily News reported Wednesday.

“I just could not, in good conscience, watch an estimate to continue to escalate without trying to do something different,” Parnell said.

Parnell said he believes two smaller ferries, in the 250-foot to 300-foot range, can be built for a total of $120 million.

“By being good stewards of Alaska’s money, we can build smaller ferries that can meet or beat the schedules of a single, over-budget, 350-foot ferry,” Parnell said.

Parnell reiterated his commitment to building the ferries at Alaska Ship and Drydock, the Ketchikan company that operates the state-owned shipyard.

The company has agreements for the final design of the larger ferry, which has been in development since 2009.

Parnell met with company officials Monday evening.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Pat Kemp said his agency will immediately begin renegotiating contracts with Vigor Industrial, the Oregon-based parent company of Alaska Ship and Drydock and the designers.

“We’re really here to support the state, and we’re happy to build whatever ships they deem necessary to support their mission and to serve the citizens of the state,” Alaska Ship and Drydock President Adam Beck said

Delays are expected as new designs are developed for the smaller ferries..

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