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Ketchikan can pay today or pay more tomorrow. That's what Propositions 1 and 2 on the Oct. 7 municipal election ballot are all about.

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Calvin E. Anderes, 90, died Sept. 8, 2014, in Ketchikan.
Georgianna Douglas, 82, died Sept. 6, 2014, in Anchorage.
Laurel Anne Bengaard, 69, died Aug. 4, 2014, in Seattle of renal failure.
10/26/2013
Airport woes

October is when two main things happen — we remark about the rain and high winds and complain about the lack of transportation to the airport.

Not this year.

Ketchikan has had only 106 inches of rain in 2013, way short of what it has received historically, and the winds have been fairly still. The only glimpse of October-like gusts came in September, and they didn't last too awfully long.

It's been a pleasant fall to date.

Which means that going to and coming from the airport hasn't been as miserable as it has the potential to be for pedestrians.

But that doesn't mean the Ketchikan Gateway Borough has forgot all about what pedestrians deal with in the most inclement weather.

The community would like the state to move ahead on improved access to and from the airport. A hardlink has been discussed for at least the 40 years since the state-owned airport opened in 1973. It's been studied; funds have been acquired, and money has been reallotted by the state to other projects. About $96 million remains in the fund for a hardlink.

Earlier this year, the borough told the state that if it didn't intend to build a hardlink, then it should use the remaining funds to improve conditions for pedestrians on both sides of Tongass Narrows.

That could include a terminal on the city side, with the ability to check baggage, allowing pedestrians to walk on and off the ferry unencumbered.

Much of the concern focused on the elderly. But concerns for travelers coming into town with no clue as to how to transport themselves and their luggage to the community existed also. As did worries for people who had traveled out of town for medical care and came home on crutches or the like and still had to deal with getting their luggage from the conveyor belt to the other side of Tongass Narrows.

The borough has responded to some of those concerns while waiting on the state and its final decision regarding a hardlink or extensive upgrade of the ferry system.

The import is illustrated through some statistics. The ferries operating between Revilla and Gravina islands transport nearly as many passengers per year as all of the ferries in the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The airport ferries transported 330,434 passengers in 2011 and 337,255 in 2012, borough statistics show. AMHS figures show its ferries transported 334,778 passengers in 2011 and 337,774 in 2012.

The borough has two key programs addressing transportation that affects access to the airport for travelers in a couple of categories.

First, it has a paratransit service, which is federally funded. It provides for passengers who qualify under the Americans with Disabilities Act, giving them door-to-door access on routes within the borough and three-quarters of a mile beyond the fixed bus-route system, which includes the airport.

Anyone with mobility issues may apply for an ADA card through the borough, according to Kyan Reeves, the borough's transit manager. Senior Services keeps applications handy as well. A doctor's note is required to accompany the application.

The borough then asks for 24-hour notice of ADA passengers needing transport, Reeves said, although it does try to accommodate in cases of shorter notice. It's all a matter of whether a motor vehicle is available on short notice.

Second, the borough supports senior transportation. Through its economic development fund it provides a grant to Southeast Senior Services for transportation and Meals on Wheels. Senior Services can use the borough grant to leverage other grants as well.

Anyone 60 and over may take advantage of the Senior Services transport between 5:15 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. During the summer, the Sunday hours can be expanded.

The senior van will take its customers to the airport for a nominal donation, but Senior Services doesn't cover the cost of the ferry portion of the trip. That is the responsibility of the traveler.

The borough honors paratransit passes from travelers coming into the community, too.

So seniors and people with mobility issues have options for transportation to and from the airport in Ketchikan. The borough is aware of the challenges for those travelers.

Before the airport transport is expanded to others, it likely will take a state decision on the hardlink — either build a bridge or improve ferry service and accommodations on both sides of the narrows for pedestrians pulling and pushing bags up and down the ramps.

In the meantime, the borough and Senior Services are addressing airport transport for seniors and others with mobility challenges.

That's particularly appreciated when the weather is rainy and windy as it can be in October.