Feds Fund Ferries


Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska

The Alaska Marine Highway System should do well in the federal budget.

A recently passed transportation bill sets aside $67 million a year for ferries. That replaces a smaller, less certain amount of money that had to be fought for every year.

Ferry chief Mike Neussl says the money is based on a formula, which should help Alaska.

"The three factors that would play into that formula would be number of passengers carried, number of vehicles carried and route miles. Route miles obviously [are] important for Alaska since our system is probably the longest-route ferry system in the United States."

Alaska Congressman Don Young inserted the provision into the House version of the Surface Transportation Act. It made it through negotiations with the Senate.

The bill awaits President Obama’s signature.

Neussl says parts of the legislation will benefit other ferry systems more than ours.

"The Alaska Marine Highway System with 3,500 or so route miles certainly competes well in that part of the formula. In terms of passengers, not so much. We carried 334,000 passengers a year. I think Washington state ferries carries about 22 million a year."

The transportation act also includes funding for tribal roads and the Alaska Railroad. It covers the next two and a quarter years.

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