The Alaska Marine Highway System is moving forward with plans to rebuild the Prince Rupert ferry terminal.
Officials are negotiating 50-year leases allowing the system to improve the British Columbia port.
Ferry chief Mike Neussl says it’s been a priority for a while.
“We’ve had failures with the marine structures previously. We’ve done some emergency repairs. It needs to be replaced and our goal is to do a complete replacement of the marine structures. And then in the future, during this long-term lease, potentially look at the terminal building itself,” he says.
The dock and terminal offices are on Port of Prince Rupert land. An associated parcel is owned by the Canadian National Railway.
Neussl says the state is in active negotiations with both parties.
Rupert is about 90 miles south of Ketchikan. It’s at the western end of a branch of the Canadian highway system. The nearly 50-year-old terminal is commonly used by travelers driving in or out of Alaska.
The Legislature this year authorized spending $9 million on the project. A separate, 2009 authorization was for $7.5 million.
“It is eligible for federal aid funding and that’s what we intend to take advantage of to do the project. But in order to do that we have to have a long-term lease, because we have to be guaranteed of getting basically a payback on that investment over the course of time,” Neussl says.
Ferries briefly stopped using the terminal four years ago while it was repaired.
The state is building another terminal in the southern part of the Southeast system.
It’s at the north end of Annette Island, and will replace an older terminal in nearby Metlakatla. The ferry Lituya provides twice-daily, five-day-a-week service between that city and Ketchikan.
Neussl says the terminal will cut the travel time in half.
“It will save us some fuel. It will allow us to do some things with the schedule that will be beneficial in terms of cost savings for operating that vessel. So, it has some positives to it and I’m looking forward to implementing them and actually seeing how it works out,” he says.
He says the terminal should be completed this fall. A 15-mile road connecting the terminal to the town was built several years ago.
Officials have also looked for a site for a new terminal in Saxman, which is closer to Annette Island than Ketchikan. That would reduce travel time even more. But no decision has been made.