State Ferries Would Be Idled By Budget Impass

Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska

All state ferries will stop sailing by early July if the Legislature fails to reach a budget deal. 

The Alaska Marine Highway System’s plans are among dozens of state service cuts announced Monday by the Walker administration.

Ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the 11 ships in the fleet will head to their home ports as close to July 1st as possible.

“We can’t play guessing games that there will be a fully funded budget at some point,” he said. “And so, we have to play it safe and have the ships enter layoff status in July.”

Some ferries will stop sailing in the final days of June, while others will tie up a few days later. 

Woodrow says a skeleton crew will remain with each ship to keep it ready to return to service.

Notice of the layup plans will be posted on the marine highway website Tuesday, but people scheduled to sail will not hear directly from Marine Highway staff. 

“There’s thousands of reservation holders,” Woodrow said. “If we were to start contacting each one, by the time we reached them all, there might be a budget passed and we’d have to turn around and call them all back.”

Woodrow says those changing or cancelling reservations will not face a penalty.

One ferry – the Taku – was already scheduled to be tied up for July and August as part of budget cuts. 

The ferry system serves 35 port communities. Only five are on the mainland road system.

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