Alaska Marine Highway System task force seeks more input

A blue and white ferry travels through the water on a clear day with mountains in the background
The fast ferry M/V Fairweather steams through Chatham Strait in 2011. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska)

The group tasked by Gov. Mike Dunleavy to plot the course of Alaska’s ferry system is holding two rounds of public comments on the future of the fleet.

The Alaska Marine Highway Reshaping Work Group has been meeting since February. Its first task was to work from the $250,000 ferry study commissioned by the Dunleavy administration. It concluded privatization of the system would not pencil out.

Now, the nine-member group is working against a September 30 deadline to make recommendations to the administration.

“The AMHS Reshaping Work Group welcomes and appreciates public input,” Chairman Tom Barrett, a retired Coast Guard admiral and pipeline executive, said in a statement. “Our goal is to deliver a more reliable marine highway system, operating at less cost and providing coastal communities transportation that helps support their fundamental economic, educational, social, health, and mobility goals.”

Residents of coastal communities have been vocal over concerns of cutbacks to service. More than 200 comments were sent to DOT over a five-day period earlier this month. They decried long service gaps projected this winter that the agency has blamed on declining revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first round of public comment will be from 3 to 6 p.m. Wednesday.  A second session will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. September 2.  The meetings are streamed by the Department of Transportation’s website and on social media. People can testify by calling toll-free 1-844-586-9085. Or email

Jacob Resneck is CoastAlaska's regional news director in Juneau.

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