Feedback sought on ferry schedule

Draft includes runs for new fast ferries

Posted: Friday, August 05, 2005

The state ferry system will take public comments next week on its proposed schedule for October 2005 to September 2006.

"This is not cast in stone at this point," said department spokesman John Manly. The draft schedule is online.

The operating plan includes the major changes the department discussed earlier for the winter, which are new routes for the state's two fast ferries.

The draft proposes that the Fairweather sail from Juneau to Haines and Skagway on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, to Sitka on Wednesdays, and then to Petersburg on weekends.

The Chenega will be pulled away from its current route in Southcentral Alaska and will serve as a shuttle between Ketchikan, Wrangell and Petersburg on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the vessel based in Ketchikan.

The suggested runs are from Nov. 18 through Feb. 1.

Last winter, the Chenega had not arrived to Alaska yet and the Fairweather was serving only Sitka and Lynn Canal.

Members of the public may send their written comments to the department or give them orally during an Aug. 11 teleconference that begins at 10 a.m.

The proposal to pull the Chenega away from Prince William Sound to serve Ketchikan and Petersburg has not been popular with communities in Southcentral Alaska. The original plan called for year-round service by a fast ferry in their region.

"I think the communities know best what the schedule should be," said Bob Doll, former marine highway chief and now executive director of activist group Better Ferries for Alaska.

The state announced earlier it intends to test the new routes this winter before it decides whether to purchase two more fast ferries in March.

Doll said it makes more economic sense to run the Fairweather continuously in Lynn Canal, where Southeast Alaska is linked to the continental road system. He also said the department is angering people in Prince William Sound during a time when the ferry system needs support.

Manly said the new routes between Juneau and Petersburg and Ketchikan will be useful for high school sports teams, so that parents, players and boosters can reach other schools in one day without the expense of flying.

Residents in Prince William Sound said they also have sports teams that need to travel

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