No one could blame Ketchikan and the Southeast region for being wary — and weary, for that matter — when it comes to pronouncements regarding the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The 60-year-old system has been encountering one challenge after another in an effort to stay afloat.

This week the system yet again announced a schedule change to accommodate repairs on one of its ships. This is only the latest. The system has dealt with all manner of necessary repairs to the ships, often as a result of breakdowns, and resulting in greatly reduced service and corresponding declining ridership and freight revenue.

It also has weathered the transition from one governor’s administration with a vision for the system to the next, essentially meaning it has been directed for decades by the rise and fall of political waves.

Most coastal Alaskans know the history. It doesn’t need to be belabored.

But perhaps the tides are changing in the right direction for the system — finally. Time will tell.

Also this week, the state Department of Transportation made several announcements that, once developed, would assist the system.

Chief among them is the potential to build a new ocean-class ferry to replace the Tustumena serving Southwest Alaska.

The ship is expected to cost between $200 million and $250 million, with a 40% increased motor vehicle and passenger capacity. That translates into 52 vehicles instead of 34, and 250 passengers total, a 90-passenger increase.

The new ship would be equipped with “fuel efficient engines, diesel and electric propulsion systems, and an efficient design …,” according to DOT.

Its completion is scheduled for 2027.

The funding source would be the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Congressman Don Young and Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan not only voted for, but likely employed their power to include the ferry system.

The bill contains $1 billion for new essential ferry service in rural communities and $73 million to be spent on new ferries, the congressman says. It also contains dollars for an electric ferry pilot program.

The state also announced it intends to spend $8 million to upgrade the Tustu0mena to extend its service life until it can be replaced. It will focus on maritime worker recruitments and maintain the 18-month ferry schedule implemented last summer.

Additionally, the state anticipates awarding a bid to Ketchikan Shipyard for installing crew quarters on the AMHS ferry Hubbard. The estimated cost is $16 million.

The shipyard, given its Alaska location, should be given priority as a potential builder of the new ferry, as well.

The fiscal 2022 state budget is imminent in its release. Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s deadline is the middle of December. These ferry system intentions should be listed within it.

Then the budget will be in the Legislature’s purview and during an election year, which can lead to any number of results.

But, at this juncture, the congressional delegation has delivered opportunity for Alaska’s highway system.

Next it will be up to the state to deliver as promised in the past week.

But, ultimately, the ferry system should be delivered into the control of a corporation similar to the Alaska Railroad, where it operates independent of the changing tides of administrations and their visions for it, with representation from all regions of Alaska served by the marine highway.