A plan to improve access to Gravina Island and the Ketchikan International Airport is moving forward. Representatives from the Alaska Department of Transportation gave an update Monday to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.

The borough-operated airport ferry heads toward the Revilla Island terminal ramp. (KRBD file photo)

Kirk Miller is the design group chief with DOT. He said 11 projects are underway related to Gravina improvements, but the two big projects they’re working on now are ferry terminal berths on Revilla and Gravina islands, and Revilla uplands improvements.

One project has been dropped from the overall list. That’s the new hiking trail to Black Sands beach.

The Revilla uplands project will include new waiting areas, sidewalks, traffic patterns and ticketing. Mark Morris with the design team told the assembly that automated kiosks and an app will be available to pay for parking and ferry fees.

“So, you’ll be able to pay for your parking on your phone as you do now,” he said. “You’ll be able to pay for your parking on the kiosk, and then you’ll be able to pay for your ferry ticket on your phone or at a kiosk.”

Airport employees who currently work in the ticket booth on the Gravina side will instead operate courtesy vans, which are included in the project funding. Those vans will provide assistance to people who need help getting luggage to and from the airport.

Morris said van drivers also can help anyone who is confused by the kiosk payment system.

Airport Manager Mike Carney said he asked the ticket booth employees what they thought of that plan.

“Every one of them: ‘You mean I get to get out of the fish bowl?’ They get to help people,” he said. “It’s more fulfilling. It’s just a better job.”

On the Gravina side, the pedestrian walkway will be widened. Some pedestrian walkways will have glass panels for weather protection, and those provide an opportunity for public art.

Miller said the federal government shutdown earlier this year delayed some permitting, but they’re trying to make up for lost time. The team should be done with design work this fall, and construction will start soon after.

Funding for the Gravina Access Improvement Project comes from what’s left of a federal allocation originally meant for a bridge between Revilla and Gravina. The bridge was vetoed, and much of that federal allocation was spent elsewhere.

Also Monday, the assembly approved an ordinance to increase this year’s spending authority of the Ketchikan School District. The ordinance approves about $512,000 less that what the district asked for.

In other matters, the assembly discussed the borough and city’s sales tax cap. No action was taken, but the assembly asked for more information about raising the overall cap, except for rent and food.

Here is a link to a 2017 KRBD story about the Gravina Access project, including a PDF of some of the improvement plans.