The annual migration of legislators and staff members to Juneau began today, starting with the cross-Gulf ferry from Whittier, which takes legislators’ cars and pets, clothes, NutriBullets, and Instant Pots to the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal, 12.8 miles north of Juneau. It leaves Whittier at 6 pm.
It’s a special trip each year just for the Legislature. This year it’s on the M/V Kennicott through what is expected to be moderate seas for this time of year — about 15 foot rollers.
The legislators and staff leaving today on the ferry will first stop at the Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage, where they have to get a COVID-19 test before they can get on the ferry. Then they need to drive 55 miles on the Seward Highway to reach the Whittier Tunnel. The tunnel is open one way at a time in intervals, and vehicles need to be there in plenty of time to get through the tunnel and be at the ferry terminal by 3 pm for boarding.
Chances are the usual cafeteria services aboard the ferry will be drastically cut back this year, and so travelers will not be cruising in comfort.
Three days after they arrive in Juneau the legislators and staff will have to take another COVID test and quarantine for 10 days. Most, however, will head to the Fred Meyer store on Glacier Highway and stock up groceries, which will effectively break the required quarantine.
Alternately, those going to work at the Capitol can arrive by air today, Jan. 4, and quarantine for 14 days.
As for the eight legislators who have already had COVID-19, they’ll have to bring a proof of having the antibody.
The legislators, their families, and staff can also drive through Canada and pick up a ferry in Haines. Currently the Alcan Highway has packed snow, black ice, and rough sections, which is normal for this time of year. The drive can take one to two days, depending on conditions.
Fewer flights are going into Juneau this winter, and the schedule appears to be changing from day to day depending on the loads. Legislators who spoke with MRAK said their reservations have been altered by Alaska Airlines twice.
Another ferry will cross the Gulf with remaining legislative cars around Jan. 25th. Some legislators are postponing bringing their cars to Juneau in expectation that the session will be short, or that a rules change will be made that allow legislators to vote remotely.