Leave our highway open

Despite the proposed statewide budget cuts, our legislators will not close paved highways elsewhere in the state. Likewise, they won’t restrict two-lane highways down to a single lane.

But that will be the effect of a proposal by a legislative subcommittee that is proposing a 10-percent cut to the Alaska ferry system.

Some proposals call for taking ferries out of service, including replacement vessels that go into service when vessels are taken out of service for repairs or annual Coast Guard required overhauls.

Southeast communities will not only lose transportation services, but they will lose out on the summer visitor traffic brought to each community by the AMHS vessels.

Fortunately legislators such as Rep. Sam Kito, D-Juneau, and Rep. Cathy Munoz, R-Juneau, are aware of our situation and have spoken out against the cuts.

Munoz noted, “The Marine Highway System is the lifeblood of our region.”

Kito said he had “serious concerns about the viability” of the ferry service under the proposed cuts. He even suggested an increase in airport landing fees to offset some of the AMHS money.

The scope of the discussion was brought into focus by Rep. Steve Thompson, R-Fairbanks, when he noted the difficulty in making cuts.

“It costs about $120 million to maintain the highway system that had 99 percent of the vehicle traffic, and $160 million to maintain a ferry system that has about 1 percent of our vehicle traffic,” he stated.

True. But for those of us living in island communities without connecting road systems, that one-percent is mighty important and needs to be funded like any other state highway.


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