Draft ferry schedule shows long gaps in service to coastal communities

An Alaska Marine Highway ferry docked in Skagway. (Photo by Emily Files/KHNS)

The Alaska Department of Transportation has released a draft winter schedule for the Alaska Marine Highway System with long gaps in service to coastal communities across the state.

Legislators approved $46 million for the state ferry system for the 2020 fiscal year. That’s roughly half the amount of state funding it received last year. According to Alaska Department of Transportation spokesperson Aurah Landau, the service gaps aim to keep costs down.

“The proposed ferry service is based on funding levels for fiscal year 2020,” Landau said. “The gaps in service are times when no vessels are available to provide service to those communities. There are service gaps in this year’s schedule because of vessel layups. Those are typical. They happen every year. There are also cost savings service gaps for some areas.”

The proposed schedule would end winter ferry service in Prince William Sound altogether. It would also suspend service to Southwestern communities such as Kodiak and Homer from January 12 to April 30. In Southeast Alaska, there would be no service to Upper Lynn Canal communities from November 1 until November 14 and again from January 15th to March 1st.

In addition, mainline voyages from Bellingham, Washington will face reductions.

The Alaska Department of Transportation will accept comments on the proposed schedule until July 26.

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