Wednesday, Jan. 5, marks the day when the annual migration of legislators and their staff begins to Alaska’s capital. The Kennicott ferry leaves Whittier with cars, pets, possessions for the 90- 120-day session that begins on Jan. 18. Several legislators are planning to be on board the ferry, which is scheduled to leave at 9 am.
The Whittier tunnel is not open until about 7 am, making it likely that most legislative travelers will be at the ferry terminal later than the three hours advance requested by the ferry system. The trip across the Gulf to Juneau takes about 34 hours.
The Kennicott will make just one trip across the Gulf before going into service at the Ketchikan shipyard for overhaul on Jan. 14. Alaska Marine Highway System says the overhaul will take longer than originally scheduled due to the extent of work needed, vendor delays, and supply chain issues. The estimate is for 98 days, with a return to service on April 21.
How other legislators and staff not traveling Wednesday will get their vehicles to Juneau is a question. Some may drive to Haines to pick up the Kennicott on its last trip to that northern Lynn Canal community. From Haines, the ferry goes back to Juneau, then on to the shipyards in Ketchikan.
Built in 1998, the M/V Kennicott is one of the younger vessels in the AMHS system. It has the capacity of up to 499 passengers, up to 78 vehicles and has cabins for overnight sailings. The vessel can be transformed into a command center for emergency teams responding to a marine disaster. AMHS says the Kennicott has had little time in the shipyard over the past two years and has an extensive checklist of maintenance items.