State ponders faster ferry for Southcentral

Posted: Monday, May 22, 2000

CORDOVA - The state is considering a new plan to create a high-speed ferry connection from Cordova to Valdez and Seward.

The plan under consideration by the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities would allow travel between Cordova and Valdez in 2.5 hours and Cordova and Seward in less than 3.5 hours.

Cordova city planner Mike Anderson, a member of a ferry planning group, said a pair of catamarans capable of cruising at 32 to 38 knots would be used.

The twin-hulled vessels would provide the benefits of greater speed and shorter hull-length for the same carrying capacity, he said.

A prototype is under construction in Southeast, Anderson said, and after it is built, new boats could be produced about six months apart.

``I don't expect to see the new boats for at least two years,'' Anderson said.

Improved ferry service to Cordova and other points in Southcentral Alaska has been discussed for years.

Two ferries - the Bartlett and the Tustumena - currently serve Prince William Sound. The Tustumena would probably be better suited to open water duty in the Aleutians and the Bartlett is probably ready to be taken out of service, said Capt. George Capacci, general manager for the marine highway system.

``The Bartlett was built in 1969 and we have to refit it almost every year to conform to new safety regulations,'' Capacci said. ``I call it `regulatory obsolescence.'''

Faster ferries would benefit the system by reducing personnel costs and improving safety, he said. The catamarans would run during daylight hours, so it would no longer be necessary to staff for a double shift, with one crew sleeping while the other runs the vessel. Similar arguments have been given for fast ferries for the Juneau-Sitka and Juneau-Haines-Skagway routes.

But the bottom line for the coastal residents of Prince William Sound would be convenience, he said.



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