I was flipping channels, waiting for the Duke North Carolina game to start last Saturday, and on Channel 7 (Gavel to Gavel) was (Alaska Marine Highway System head) Robin Taylor.
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The topic of conversation in front of the Senate Finance Committee was the marine highway system, which included financing and condition of the system. I cannot say how totally impressed I was by the "facts" presented by Commissioner Taylor on the well-being of the marine highway system.
Direct costs associated with maintenance, per mile charge and labor and indirect costs of community service, cost benefit and how the marine highway system will accommodate Southeast communities in the future for growth were all topics of conversation presented to the committee.
I do not believe that highway systems are built for the purpose of making money. Nevertheless, when millions of dollars are being spent, are we getting the best bang for our buck?
There is no doubt that fast ferries along with present marine highway facility accommodations are not the answer to upgrading our marine highway system. For the marine highway system to accommodate growth in communities throughout Southeast Alaska, surface transportation must be included with water transportation services to get the biggest bang for the buck. To do less would be expecting all Alaska residents to write a blank check to the privileged Juneau residents who like Juneau exactly the way it is and want no change regardless of common sense or what is best for Alaska as a whole.
Being an Alaska resident for more than 50 years, I have used the marine highway system to attend basketball games, work and visit friends. The marine highway system was enacted in 1964 and initially was to be used as an economical approach to connect towns in Southeast Alaska and the Lower 48, subsidized by all people in Alaska. It is now time to make changes to the marine highway system that are economical and beneficial to all Alaskans.