The Alaska Marine Highway System promises to have a ferry schedule completed by the end of January, in time to meet some crucial publishing deadlines, but some legislators remain angry at system managers.
Two months or more later than schedule users would like, Dennis Hardy, deputy commissioner for marine operations, pledged Tuesday to have a completed summer schedule by Jan. 31.
"We will have it in time to be printed in the Milepost," Hardy, with the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities, told Rep. Kyle Johansen, R-Ketchikan, chairman of the House Transportation Committee.
Johansen was among legislators unhappy with the delay, and he held the hearing to look at the schedule issue.
The Milepost, the annual guidebook for Alaska travelers, documents all the roads to Alaska, including the marine highway, and is considered a vital tool to promote Southeast to travelers.
The Milepost publishes the ferry schedule at no charge to the state, but its staff said earlier this month that delays in finalizing the schedule could keep the ferry schedule out of the publication for the first time in 40 years.
Milepost General Manager Andy Hall said they had hoped to begin printing 80,000 copies of the 800-page publication on Jan. 28, but have been able to move their printing time back.
"I know they're working hard on it," he said. "Somebody lit a fire under them."
Hall said he's confident that state transportation administrators understand the Milepost's deadlines, but that he's not going to relax until the schedule is done.
"I'm not going to get a good night's rest until I have it in my hands."
Others in the tourist industry say they fear they'll lose bookings that would otherwise be made in December and January, and that potential Alaska travelers will go elsewhere.
State Rep. Mike Doogan, D-Anchorage, said that with the ferry system needing more passengers, it needs to do everything it can to make it easy to ride the ferries.
"It behooves the system to publish that schedule soon as it can," he said.
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