Sticker shock for family ferry ride from Juneau to Bellingham: $4,151



A family in Juneau wanted to move their GMC Yukon with a trailer, two children and two adults to Bellingham, Washington.

They booked it on the Alaska Marine Highway System last week and were quoted a price of $4,151.

That didn’t include a stateroom or meals, of course. The parents and kids would have to sleep on the floor or in chairs for three nights. Showers would be extra.

There’s a better value: It would cost them $1,600 to ship their vehicle on a barge to Seattle and another $1,000 for airline tickets from Juneau to Seattle. All private sector, it should be noted.


Here’s the kicker: Even if the family chose the  $4,151.00 ferry option, the State of Alaska would be subsidizing the trip.

By how much? Another $8,000, because that trip costs the State of Alaska over $12,000 for the family of four and their vehicle plus trailer. The family would only be paying a third of the actual cost.


Ferries are expensive to run. They push a lot of water, burn massive amounts of hydrocarbons doing so, and take expensive manpower to operate and maintain. They are not green machines, as environmentalists would like to believe.

Such is the dilemma for those dependent on the Alaska Marine Highways, and part of the reason some Juneau residents are passionate about creating better access with a 48-mile road to Katzehin and a commuter-style ferry to Haines. They say, “Build roads where you can, and deploy ferries where you must.”

It’s a class thing: Too many working class people just cannot afford to leave Juneau. They spend years there and never have the funds to see what’s beyond the end of the road. While it’s unlikely a road would ever be built to Skagway due to the rugged terrain, a road and a short ferry ride would be affordable for many more than the current four-hour ride to Haines from the Auke Bay ferry terminal.

At Katzehin, there would be eight sailings a day in the summer, and as many as four in the winter. Travelers wouldn’t have to get in line two hours in advance, as they do now, because if they miss the boat, they could catch the next one.


On Wednesday, Vigor Shipyard in Ketchikan launched the first of two state ferries built there after Gov. Sean Parnell turned back federal funds in order to give the Ketchikan shipyard a better shot at winning the bid. The ferry will be christened in July, and likely Gov. Bill Walker will be on hand for the happy occasion.

The Tazlina floats on Wedesday. (Photo by Norman Skan, Ketchikan)

The first Alaska-class ferry, the M/V Tazlina, is 280 feet long and can carry up to 300 passengers. It will begin service in 2019, as the first Alaska ferry to be built in an Alaska shipyard by Alaskans.

Some road advocates in Juneau hope that by the time the ship is christened this summer, Gov. Walker will not have vetoed the $21 million that has been once again set aside for the Juneau Access Project that this new ferry is designed to complement. The day boat was designed without staterooms just for that purpose in upper Lynn Canal, to give Juneau residents a way out, and others an easier way in to Alaska’s capital city.

The money had been saved for the project for years, while it went through its environmental legal challenges. It’s the only major shovel-ready project in Alaska.

Then, Gov. Walker took the money away and set it aside for docks for the existing ferry system, and said the road project was dead.

This legislative session, the money was restored to the road project by the Senate, over the objections of Rep. Sam Kito III, who represents downtown Juneau. His constituents are split on the road, but many are vehemently against Juneau access.

Now, it’s back in the governor’s court again. Which side will he listen to?

[Read: The road to commonsense: Governor has a decision.]


  1. It’s time to build the road. The trip cost and limited ferry schedule outside of the summer season makes it hard to come and go. Opponents to the road in Juneau sometimes forget that it is also a road to Juneau. Skagway and Haines are wonderful towns to visit; great food and drink. The attractions in both are historic and enriching. The highways out of the places are beautiful. A road would be a tremendous boost to local economies that could be accessed at more affordable costs. It’s time to quit arguing and start building!

    • If the Constitutional requirement of voter approval for bonds need not be met then why not sell bonds to build the road?

  2. Don’t quite see what the problem is since the ferry goes both ways. If it comes up to Juneau then it goes down to Juneau.
    Building the road to Haines seems abit much. You can fly out of Juneau. Is that a problem?

  3. Showers are not extra on the ferries. They charge $1 for a towel, washcloth and bar of soap. If you have your own, it’s a free shower.

  4. The price quote is way off. We have two adults, two kids, two dogs, a GMC Yukon, and a 4 berth stateroom booked for $4200 for mid July. State room cost was about $800 of the $4200.

    • Difference is the trailer, which would need to know the length to determine it’s extra cost. Ferry system charges by length whereas most barges charge by weight. Short heavy vehicle gets a good deal on Ferry where a long light item like a boat trailer gets a better deal on barge.

    • Did you have a trailer as well?
      “A family in Juneau wanted to move their GMC Yukon with a trailer,”

      • Without the knowledge of length of trailer, pretty hard to make any comparison even if they did have a trailer!

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