Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces his budget during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces his budget during a press conference to announce the state’s budget on Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Governor proposes cutting ferry funding at the end of the summer

New budget calls for 75 percent reduction

People who rely on the ferry system to get around Alaska need to get ready for some drastic changes.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed his 2020 fiscal year plan on Wednesday, which calls for a 75 percent reduction to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s budget.

“We have a 98 million dollar reduction for next year for the Marine Highway system,” Donna Arduin, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in a press conference. “They are making use of a marine consultant to determine what their options are … to make their system more profitable and efficient.”

Arduin said the ferries are an “inefficient system,” and compared the cost of transportation of a vehicle on a ferry versus on a state highway. She said it costs 2 cents per mile on a highway and $4.58 on a ferry.

Funding would allow ferries to run through the summer months, but Arduin said after that the administration is hoping a private contractor would take over.

“They would spend the year working on a plan using a marine consultant to determine what’s the highest and best use (of the Marine Highway),” Arduin said.

Some Democratic representatives voiced concerns over the ferry system being run only for-profit and not as an essential state service for rural communities.

“My first thought is that privatizing implies a profit to be made,” Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, said. “The goal has to be to serve the state. While certainly our ridership is up in the summer, a true need of the Alaska Marine Highway System is when the planes don’t fly.”

Robert Venables, a member of the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board, said the board was still trying to digest the information.

“We really need some more information,” Venables said. “My phone’s still blowing up with interpretations of what’s been said, but it’s alarming.”

At a presentation last week, AMHS said that Juneau is their biggest port for passengers. Many rural Alaskans rely on the ferry system for transportation, especially communities in Southeast not connected by roads.

Kevin Baird contributed to this report.

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of May 25

Here’s what to expect this week.

The LeConte state ferry departs Juneau on Tuesday afternoon, bound for Haines on a special round-trip following two cancelled sailings due to a mechanical problem. (Laurie Craig / Juneau Empire)
LeConte returns to service with special trip to Haines after weekend cancellation

State ferry will pick up half of nearly 60 stranded vehicles, others may have to wait until July.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, May 27, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Anchorage pullers arrived at Wrangell’s Petroglyph Beach on May 23 for a canoe-naming ceremony. One of the canoes they will paddle to Juneau was dedicated to Wrangell’s Marge Byrd, Kiks.adi matriarch Shaawat Shoogoo. The canoe’s name is Xíxch’ dexí (Frog Backbone). (Becca Clark / Wrangell Sentinel)
Canoes making 150-mile journey from Wrangell, other Southeast communities to Celebration

Paddlers expected to arrive in Juneau on June 4, one day before biennial Alaska Native gathering.

The Alaska State Capitol and Dimond Courthouse are seen on Thursday morning, Jan. 18. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Judicial Council recommends Alaskans keep all judges, including figure behind correspondence ruling

The Alaska Judicial Council has voted to recommend that state voters retain… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, May 26, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, May 25, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, May 24, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Wreath bearers present wreaths for fallen comrades, brothers and sisters in arms during a Memorial Day ceremony at Alaskan Memorial Park on Monday. Laying wreaths on the graves of fallen heroes is a way to honor and remember the sacrifices made. (Jasz Garrett / Juneau Empire)
Traditional Memorial Day ceremonies offer new ways to ‘never forget’ those who served

New installations at memorial sites, fresh words of reminder shared by hundreds gathering in Juneau.

Most Read