Governor Using Fuel Savings to Help Keep Ferries Running

Ed Schoenfeld/CA

Gov. Bill Walker has a plan to keep most ferries running during the busy tourist season.

Alaska Marine Highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the governor is shifting $5.5 million in unused money from this year’s fuel fund to next year’s operating budget.

“That will allow the marine highway system to operate its summer schedule without any major changes, except for one change, which would be to the Taku,” Woodrow said.

That ferry will be out of service from July to September. 

The Taku cancellation will cut sailings to and from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, from four to two a week. Those sailings also stop in Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Kake and Juneau. 

Woodrow says reservations staffers are contacting those who booked travel on the Taku beginning in July.

Officials have said the Legislature’s full budget cuts would cancel travel already booked by about 10,000 people. That number is now much lower.

“What we’re trying to do, especially with these funds, is restore service that we’re already made a commitment to existing travelers on,” Woodrow said. “And that’s something the governor has been very vocal about, is to honor that service.”

The Taku is filling in this month for other ferries that are under repair. In July, it will be tied up for an overhaul.

Other reductions could come in October, the start of the winter schedule.

Walker Budget Director Pat Pitney says the fuel-fund transfer is in the spending plan already passed by lawmakers.

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