Monday's announcement by the Administration that fast ferries would be the surface transportation option for the Lynn Canal, as opposed to a road, is important.
Equally important, perhaps more important in the long run, is the caution raised by the editorial in Tuesday's Juneau Empire. The caution was with respect to the cost of operating ferries and whether the Legislature will fund the proposed fast ferries for the Lynn Canal route.
The draft environmental impact statement estimates the on-going maintenance and operating costs for the fast ferry system at $17 million per year.
The proposed road system, including a ferry link to Haines, is estimated to have an on-going maintenance and operating cost of $4 million annually, including significant funding for avalanche control. This is a $13 million per year added cost for the ferry system. And these costs are strictly State of Alaska costs; no federal funds can be used for maintenance and operations.
Considering that the Administration has curtailed certain ferry runs this year due to high operating (fuel) costs and Department of Transportation officials have stated that consideration is being given to turning off certain highway lighting in order to reduce operating (energy) costs, plus the on-going budget deficit situation, it would seem that the Legislature needs to seriously consider the on-going maintenance and operating costs of the Lynn Canal surface transportation system before authorizing any capital expenditures for this link in the statewide transportation system.
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