The design concept report for the “day boat” Alaska-class ferry proposed by the state was released Tuesday afternoon by the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
The report describes the type of ship being sought by the DOT&PF. Under its specifications, each ferry would have a passenger capacity of up to 300 people and could hold up to 53 cars on its car deck. They would be at least 256.75 feet long at the waterline.
A “Roadmap” vessel design included in the report comes in at 278.5 feet.
According to the report, the total project cost for two Alaska-class ferries would be $107.2 million, with the construction contract for the first ship costing $49.2 million and costing $44.3 million for the second ship.
A short section of the report also deals with a design element that has been the subject of much speculation among watchers of the Alaska Marine Highway System — namely, whether the ferry design will incorporate an open roof.
"One possible construction cost savings measure may be to include a partially open aft roof," the section of the report reads. "A partially open roof above the aft portion of the vehicle space reduces the cost of the vessel superstructure, the bow door, and other equipment associated with ventilating and heating the car deck. The Department will require the vessel design team to investigate a partially open aft roof, enclosed with bulwark walls high enough to safely shield the Car Deck from sea water including spray."
The report describes two routes as being the “first priority” for the ships: a Juneau-Haines round trip and a Haines-Skagway round trip. The first loop would take just under 12 hours, while the latter would take nearly 3.5 hours and could run twice a day.
The principle behind the day boat concept is that ships would operate for no more than 12 hours during the day, thus eliminating the need for overnight accommodations or crew rotations.
Under direction from Gov. Sean Parnell, the DOT&PF pivoted away from a previous concept for one 350-foot Alaska-class ferry in favor of two smaller “shuttle ferries” late last year.
DOT&PF Commissioner Pat Kemp has said he hopes to have the ships built in Ketchikan, with construction beginning as early as next winter.
Editor's note: This article has been updated to correct the length of the proposed ferry.