The Alaska Marine Highway System is considering purchasing two new ferries to operate as day boats for the cities of Juneau, Haines and Skagway.
Marine Transportation Director Robin Taylor said the state is just shopping around for the ships right now, and no final decision has been made on whether to buy them.
The goal is to establish shuttle ferry service from Cascade Point, northeast of Juneau near Berners Bay. He said until a dock is built to accommodate the ferries, they would operate out of the state ferry terminal at Auke Bay in Juneau.
He said it is uncertain how much the vessels would cost.
The state ferry system is
soliciting companies to submit proposals to purchase the so-called roll-on-roll-off ferries to operate in Lynn Canal.
The ferries allow vehicles to drive onto one side of the ship and drive off the other side, making it easier and faster for passengers to enter and exit the vessels, Taylor said.
He said shuttle ferries could travel from Cascade Point to Haines four times a day during the summer and to Skagway three to six times a day. More ships making regular, dependable trips would encourage more people to take the ferry, Taylor said.
He said new ships in Lynn Canal would take pressure off the rest of the ferry system and allow large mainline ships to travel no farther north than Juneau.
"This would provide an almost 30 percent increase in the frequency of trips," he said.
Taylor said the ferries would be cheaper to operate than mainline ferries because they run with small crews of four to 10 people in some cases and use less fuel.
He said he plans to conduct public meetings before a decision is made to purchase the ships. The decision on whether to purchase the ships still is about two years out, he said.
"If things can happen quicker, then we'll expedite them," he said.