State surveys public on ferry system long-range plan

For the next week, Alaskans have a chance to register their opinions on the future of the state ferry system through an online survey that will be used to help create a long-range plan.

The survey responses will be used over the next year to craft the “2045 Long-Range Plan” for the Alaska Marine Highway System, intended to establish its goals for service levels and operations beyond the more reactive, short-term decisions that have guided the system in recent years.

AMHS General Manager Craig Tornga opened an Oct. 24 public meeting by describing the agency's difficulties and slow progress toward filling crew positions — which have restricted ship operations — and its planned capital projects for its fleet and ferry terminals over the next several years.

He said recruitment remains “a real problem,” as are reliability issues for the fleet. “(Having) five of our vessels being over 45 years old, really does present a challenge.”

The fate of the 60-year-old Matanuska “remains uncertain,” Tornga said. The next step is drydock scheduled for November, which will include an assessment of how much rusted steel would need to be replaced to put the ship back into service. The Matanuska has been tied up in Ketchikan since last November.

Tornga also summarized at the Oct. 24 meeting the work that the state and its consultants have done to start developing the long-range plan, including the creation of a 70-page draft interim plan to describe how the system will be managed over the next three years.

Survey responses must be submitted by Tuesday, Nov. 7.

The survey is at surveymonkey.com/r/QP6RB8F. It includes 12 questions broken into five chunks: a trio of prompts for information, three questions regarding the role of the ferry system, two on alternative transportation options, two on frequency of service and two for general feedback.

All questions, including the requests for identifying information, are optional and do not need to be answered to submit the survey.

 

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