Two articles in the Empire this month illustrate that the Alaska Department of Transportation abandoned quality ferry service in favor of political maneuvers over roads. Wallace Williams said in his My Turn on March 8 that, regardless of how each of us feels about new roads, we must admit that the Alaska Marine Highway system has become broken and is sinking in red ink. Wallace also said the ferry system worked well in the 1990s.
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The primary thing that has changed is DOT's attitude toward it. The ferry system is broken because DOT's planners are busy planning how they are going to run it after they get more roads. DOT's planners are focused on 10 years in the future, but the ferry system is falling apart right now.
On March 2, Robin Taylor, who supervises the Alaska Marine Highway System, told the Empire, "Some in Southeast Alaska have been using the fast ferries as an excuse to fight off new roads shortening the distance between cities." Taylor, a Murkowski appointee, clearly understands that a working ferry system could stand in the way of building a road, and he plans on using poor ferry service as a plunger to force roads down our throats.
Meanwhile, everybody in Southeast Alaska suffers. Regardless of how each of us feels about new roads, we have a right to demand that DOT make quality ferry service a top priority.