The Marine Highway is safe and reliable

Posted: Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Ferries are the only safe, reliable access to Juneau and elsewhere in Southeast Alaska, particularly in the winter. Access to the Juneau airport and medical care facilities is a necessity - not a luxury - to those of us who live in Southeast communities outside of Juneau.

Would you want to put your children on a bus on this avalanche-prone road for a basketball game in a neighboring Southeast Alaska community? Avalanches and winter road conditions will make this road unsafe and impassible most of the time in winter. How about elders who need medical care and don't drive?

What services will be available for breakdowns? People stuck between avalanches? Vehicles involved in road accidents? People stuck at Katzehein because of avalanches or because of shuttle ferries not running due to high winds?

High winds have canceled the Chenega runs in Upper Lynn Canal about 50 percent of the time - nine times total so far. A small shuttle ferry would be even more vulnerable to such cancellations.

We should appreciate the safe, unique travel opportunity we have with the Alaska Marine Highway. Investments in the AMHS also benefits businesses in Southeast when a reliable ferry schedule is in place.

Three new mainline ferries (between the size of the ferries LeConte and Taku) would give the AMHS the flexibility it needs for reliable schedules and to repair and upgrade the older ferries we have. The Chenega and Fairweather could be moved out of the Upper Lynn Canal to runs where they are more reliable and useful.

We should build ferries that are fuel-efficient, have carrying capacity for vehicles and cargo, and which are safe. It's fine for Juneau and Auke Bay to remain a "hub" for AMHS.

Kathleen Menke


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