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The long-awaited winter ferry schedule is coming, but the delay likely is costing the Alaska Marine Highway System.
It’s during July, August and September when Alaskans, who want to take their own motor vehicle for a road trip, make ferry reservations to Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and Bellingham, Washington.
But, not this year, the winter schedule isn’t out yet. Ferry reservations aren’t available beyond Sept. 30.
The state Department of Transportation issued a press release this week stating that it anticipated a schedule by the third week in September.
That will be late for September and many October travelers from Ketchikan, the surrounding area and points north, resulting in lost revenue.
Revenue also declined when the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific shut down the ferry system for 11 days, beginning at the end of July, by striking. Ferry service resumed in early August.
The state estimated its revenue losses as a result of the strike at $3 million.
Those losses, coupled with about $43 million less in state funding for ferry operations in the new fiscal year, make a sizable impact to the system. The cut is a result of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s effort to reduce state spending. Through the regular legislative session and two special sessions, the Legislature grappled with the funding cut.
The loss of funds follows a couple years of one ferry or another being offline during the peak travel season because of breakdowns, resulting in more losses and expenses.
If it’s not one thing, it’s another for the ferry system.
But it keeps on chugging along. That’s what Alaskans in this region of the state want and need.
Another immediate need is the ferry schedule. Better late than never.