Local News

Latest shuttle ferry plan closes car deck

A drawing of the Alaska Class Shuttle Ferry by Elliot Bay Design. A new report estimates building two will cost $112.2 million. They will likely be built at the Ketchikan shipyard and will sail Lynn Canal.

The latest design for new shuttle ferries includes a covered car deck. But it doesn’t address some other concerns, such as minimal food service.

What’s called a design study report for the Alaska Class Shuttle Ferries was released Monday. Two ships are planned for Juneau, Haines and Skagway sailings.

Alaska Marine Highway spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says the report calls for a fully enclosed car deck. Earlier plans left the rear part open.

“The point of shielding the car deck from extreme weather really isn’t the main reason behind it. More of a reason is that the additional costs really wouldn’t be that much to the point where it would be worthwhile leaving it open,” Woodrow says.

Longtime passengers and community leaders objected to an open deck, saying salt spray and ice would damage vehicles.

Skagway tugboat captain Mike Korsmo serves on the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board. He likes the change.

“That’s a good thing. I think that was kind of a clear message that they got, that people didn’t want to see an open car deck,” Korsmo says.

Size and capacity requirements have not changed much since the last proposal.

Shuttle ferries would be 280 feet long, larger than the small ferry LeConte, which sails the route part of the year.

They will have indoor seating for 300 passengers and parking for about 50 cars and trucks.

A larger ferry design discarded late last year called for several small quiet rooms for families, the sick, or the elderly.

That’s been dropped. But Woodrow says some options remain.

“There’s going to be a theater lounge as well as a children’s area, a family area. And then there’s going to be what’s called a library or a quiet room as well that kind of acts as … the observation lounge, which tends to be a quieter area,” Woodrow says.

Plans continue to call for a small food court and vending machines.

Korsmo understands the need to save money, but says passengers will miss having a full kitchen.

“I took pictures this winter of the lineups on the LeConte of people waiting for food. So I’m sure it’s going to be somewhat of a letdown to the traveling public, especially in the wintertime,” Korsmo says.

A drawing of the earlier, larger proposed Alaska Class Ferry from Elliott Bay Design Group.

The ships are designed to sail 12-hour days, not overnight. The design will include bow and stern doors to allow faster roll-on, roll-off loading and unloading. Side doors will allow docking at more terminals.

The latest cost estimate is $112.2 million for both ferries. That’s $5 million more than the previous figure, but still below the $117 million allocated by the Legislature.
In addition to Lynn Canal, the shuttle ships could sail to northern Southeast villages or Prince William Sound communities.

Public hearings are planned for August 20th, 21st and 22nd in Juneau, Skagway and Haines.

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