Dunleavy: Marine Highway working group forms to restructure ferry system


Gov. Mike Dunleavy formed up a working group to begin the process of restructuring the Alaska Marine Highway System.

The nine members of the reshaping work group are:

  • Public: Admiral Tom Barrett (ret.) (Chair)
  • Public: John Torgerson
  • Public: Wanetta Ayers
  • Aviation: Lee Ryan
  • Labor: Ben Goldrich
  • MTAB: Robert Venables
  • Roads & Highways: Tony Johansen
  • Senator Bert Stedman
  • Representative Louise Stutes

The Work Group’s final report is due on or before Sept. 30, 2020 with implementation beginning in Fiscal Year 2023.

Over the years of operation, there has never been a replacement fund for the ferry system, said Commissioner of Transportation John MacKinnnon.


  1. Not good enough….Dunleavy needs to fire the commissioner and get on with someone who can do a temporary fix. I listened to the news conversation with the Governor and the Commissioner. The commissioner lied….and made excuses. The governor talked too much and in that short conversation…he is not going to change the path…Therefore, they both need to do better or resign. The whole of a section of Alaska is paralyzed in transportation needs because neither of them knows how to think outside of the box and rectify a short term and long term problem. The marine highways was a mess under Walker, and he kept moving money out of the department, so Dunleavy inherited the bad management of Walker and needs to say so and get on with fixing the problem on a temporary fix and long term. Federal money has been given to the state and it has not been used wisely or for the right reasons. Southeast needs the ferry system…NOW!!!

    • Talk to the Legislature, the House writes the checks . . . glad you recognized that the fault is not Dunleavy’s with respect to which administration took the money for other things.
      Typical Dem move, take the money for something else, then lie about it, or say nothing.

      • Okay, I have to call BS on you. Dunleavy submitted a budget for 2019 that provided less funding than the legislature ended up submitting for signature, and the legislative submission was under threat of veto. Don’t go rewriting history here. The gutting of the ferry system came from Dunleavy, and anyone that says otherwise is a moron or a liar. You voted for him, as least be honest about his weak management game.

  2. I think this commission is a not conducive to a real solution, but giving lip service to political expediency–hence the legislators on the commission.

  3. I gave this issue some thought today. My son who has a degree in Marine Transportation and holds many coast guard licenses has some ideas. Unfortunately the political climate is not right at this time. It will be interesting to see what this working group comes up with. In my opinion 2023 is a long way off for users of the system. Dunleavy is featured in the state tourist pamphlet telling tourists we have a ferry system. We are over half way through February and there is no ferry schedule. John MacKinnnon needs to step up and come up with some answers now. There are around 70,000 registered voters in communities served by the AMHS. The unhappiness goes across party lines.

  4. John MacKinnon has over fifty years experience with the ferry system. If he cannot come up with a plan, no one can. That said, I am less thrilled with the “task force” which may be a group paralyzed by the status quo. My solution? Turn back the clock to about 1976: Three blue canoes on mainline Southeast runs, plus a shuttle on the north end between Juneau, Haines and Skagway. A shuttle to Cordova. A run to Kodiak. Oh, the shuttle to Prince of Wales is good. All of this service would be “no frills.” Then call it good. Bye-bye to the Columbia and Kennicott. And the fast ferries. It might make some sense to re-evaluate placing the HQ for the system in Ketchikan. Once that occurred, the system costs seemed to escalate and service deteriorate. Worth a look.

    • This screw-up is on Mackinnon’s watch and you are puffing him up. Did you hear the never-ending bunch of excuses he gave at Dunleavy’s latest press release? The guy (MacKinnon) is a joke.

        • I’m guessing you have no dog in this race Jmark. Those who depend on those ferries have other idea IMO.
          The big question is who does Kevin Meyer go with?

  5. The Ferry System has always been Political. I recall when Egan sold the Wickersham for a song during an election year in an attempt to discredit his opponent Wally Hickel who purchased the Jones Act complicated vessel. What nobody saw coming was some guy named Jay Hammond who defeated them both that Fall.
    My point is despite political posturing we still had a fairly Sound Marine Highway System. What happened Alaska? We had more ferries and the same Highways before Oil $. Can someone explain to me how now we cannot afford the basic’s that government is to supply? Roads and public safety seem in short supply but Legislators grapple over the number of staffers they have.

  6. As an Alaskan doesn’t live on a ferry route, have to get on a plane and fly to a local hub be that Juno Ketchikan or Dutch harbor or Sandpoint. Then get on another plane and make it into town. All of the interior peoples mail and goods comes in by plane. I’m not sure why we need to spend all the money on the ferry system just because it’s the way we used to do things. A med a vac is always always going to be the fastest option over a slow boat. If it’s just to get cheaper transportation and cheaper groceries I’m not sure that’s fair to the rest of Alaska.

    • Public funding supports your mail route. Should we pull that? What about the FAA support for flight safety? What about public funds used for airports? Gee Greg, you sure are suffering under the socialist yoke. You keep freedom fighting though and maybe you’ll get to that place where you actually pay your own way.

      • All those things you mentioned is something that everyone benefits from. You do realize that the ferry system does not benefit me out in the middle of nowhere in fact it benefits of very few people based on Alaska’s population. You know like the state funding baby killing very few people are killing babies but the ones that are doing that get paid for. Social programs that benefit the good of all are welcome but socialist programs that benefit only a few in this day and age where we are seeking a balanced budget need to be trimmed.

      • Also those things that you mention I helped pay for with my federal income tax. Maybe if we had more people paying taxes then our state wouldn’t be so upside down on its budget.

        • Yes, you help. But we run a federal deficit the pay for the difference between your tax dollars and the real cost. And in Southeast people help by paying fares. Really not too different. Unless you benefit, I guess.

      • I’m pretty sure I pay my own way as a tax payer going on 48 years now. My tax dollars pay for the items you chose. They are all federally funded just like our military. Try again please.

          • I’m not sure what you’re saying you want a copy of my tax records or what? the thing is people who ride the ferries and pay fares get the benefit of a state provided transportation service and as it is supplemented by the state. The bush planes that I fly aren’t getting any gasoline or tires or anything like that from the state they have to provide their own and they do that with yes …..my fares that I pay them.

    • Greg,
      Ferries do not haul much freight. Scheduled barge and or container ship service to communities haul the vast majority of freight for most of Alaska.
      Ferries are extensions of public roads.

  7. Gregg, the US postal service subsidizes Alaska air carriers at a great loss (paying more for rural Alaska air cargo services than they take in through postage receipts). The bypass mail program provides additional subsidies. Please see 39 USC 5402, and look up the Intra-Alaska Mail Service by Air program at Alaska DOT. I lived in rural Alaska for years and have spent many hours on float planes, and greatly appreciated that some of the overhead was covered by the USPS reliable mail cargo because otherwise there wasn’t enough business to support daily service to my location at an affordable rate. So no, I don’t want to see your tax returns Greg. I want you to understand that public funds — from an institution that runs at a deficit (so no, your taxes don’t cover the bill) — support your way of life. From planes to highways. You could at least educate yourself on how things get paid before you berate the Southeast population for wanting ferry service.

      • It’s totally on topic because my point isn’t about mail, it’s about the commonplace of infrastructure subsidy. It’s an important point to make in this environment where so many non-coastal folks feel like the ferry system is a bloated entitlement when in fact, when appropriately funded, it’s not very different from the other modes of transportation in our state — none of us pays our fair share of community resources, but we need these resources to maintain a viable economy. You need your planes, and roads, and Southeast needs the ferry. Without it this state is too hostile to business. I’m in private-sector business in Alaska and see it every day.

          • Without the subsidized mail contracts, your airfare would cost you more. So you are receiving subsidized transportation. Not State funds though – federal.

        • You make such a false equation.
          The ferry system is nothing like the road system. If you insist it is, then do this: Quit driving your own car. Pay union drivers to drive you around…. so they can go on surprise strike, paralyzing you in the middle of your busy season… for cups of coffee (one of the justifications for their strike was wanting free coffee).
          No cheating by driving your own car again. If you do, you prove your own equation false.

          Abolish the Inland Boatmen’s Union, and all other public sector unions.

  8. The ferry system needs to be its own Authority just like other states. Run by a board of directors. No legislative authority involvement. Governor appoints them they run it. Money comes from tolls, fees but they can’t level taxes. You want to use it, you have to pay for it. Same thing needs to be done for the international airports. (Anchorage, Fairbanks and maybe Juneau.) The commissioner that had this vision unfortunately doesn’t work for the state anymore. (Miss you Mark) Keep making bad choices and let the legislators have a say in the money and it will never run correctly.

  9. Why Torgerson as a public member of the restructuring group? Wasn’t he running the ferry system for awhile? How on Earth are any new ideas going to flow from a group of people who have spent most of their working careers sucking on the government tit?

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