Mat-Su ferry is a foolish proposal

Posted: Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mat-Su Borough residents will soon learn that operating a ferry is incredibly expensive.

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The "Ferry From Nowhere," or "Ferry to Nowhere" if you're departing Anchorage, is outrageously expensive. Bellingham's proposed Lummi Island ferry will carry 35 cars at $7.50 per round-trip, and cost $8 million. The Mat-Su ferry will carry 20 cars and cost $58 million.

There is no business model that will prevent the Mat-Su Borough from losing millions. At $7.50 per car, it will gross a ridiculous $150 per round-trip. That won't even pay for the ferry terminal ticket agents, let alone a captain, crew, repairs, maintenance, fuel, insurance and overhead.

Most Southeast residents know that the State of Alaska operates its ferry system at a huge loss. The last time I checked it took in $55 million per year in ticket sales, but cost $135 million to operate. The state and feds kicked in the difference. However, there are no roads from Haines to Juneau to Ketchikan and points in between.

Mat-Su Borough residents are not going to pay $7.50 to sit at the Point McKenzie ferry terminal, in the dark, idling their vehicles waiting for a ferry. They surely won't go through multiple Homeland Security checkpoints to do the same at the Port of Anchorage terminal.

Winter operation in Cook Inlet will be unbelievably dangerous with pickup-sized icebergs driven by 8 mph tides slamming into the ferry. It might make a decent dinner cruise for summer tourists if it's well heated, and they don't get too close to the Anchorage Water and Wastewater Utility sewage plume or caught in rough water.

The Ferry From Nowhere is a huge white elephant that bilked Lower 48 taxpayers out of $84 million. California taxpayers will have $10 million to $12 million sunk into a Rube Goldberg contraption that is foolishly extravagant. It's like using a Ferrari to commute to work.

The Mat-Su Borough should sell it on eBay or give it to Ketchikan.

D. K. "Dan" Lilja

San Diego

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