March 7, 2013 | Volume 43, No. 9

Borough's ferry plan response

The Haines Borough Assembly voted Tuesday to establish an ad-hoc, three-person committee to follow issues related to the Alaska-class ferries, following the release of draft design plans for the two shuttle ferries last week by the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Borough nominees for the committee to date include assembly member Joanne Waterman, borough planning commissioner Robert Venables, and Alaska Marine Lines employee Michael Ganey.

Harbormaster Phil Benner also expressed interest.

“Having seen that draft report, I think it’s to the point where we should have an ad-hoc committee,” said assembly member Steve Vick. “I think it’s becoming a bigger and more important issue seeing the momentum it’s going and the direction it’s going.”

DOT released design plans Feb. 26 for the two Alaska-class shuttle ferries. Called “day boats” in the report compiled by Anchorage-based Coastwise Corporation, the two ferries would be a minimum of 256 feet long at the waterline, hold 53 vehicles, and seat 300 passengers. There would be no cafeterias or passenger berths.

Borough Mayor Stephanie Scott said she was disappointed in the vessels’ open-deck design. The report says, “One possible construction cost savings measure may be to include a partially open aft roof. A partially open roof above the aft portion of the vehicle space reduces the cost of the vessel superstructure, the bow door, and other equipment associated with ventilating and heating the car deck.”

“I worry about that in the Upper Lynn Canal,” Scott said.

Scott said she was told the open deck would not be a problem in winter when the ferry sees less usage, because the small number of vehicles could fit under the area that is covered.

However, Scott asked the Haines ferry terminal manager for data on the last five months of the ferry LeConte’s sailings and found in October, nine of the 13 sailings were full or overbooked. In November, five were full or overbooked.

“They were saying that the open deck in the wintertime isn’t going to be an issue because in the wintertime, the ferries sail under capacity. And that’s really not completely accurate,” Scott said.

According to the report, the first-priority routes for the ferries will be a Haines-Juneau loop and a Haines-Skagway loop. The Haines loop will take just under 12 hours, and the Skagway loop will take 3.5 hours and run twice a day.

“I still have major concerns about the idea that the people from Skagway will have to get off the boat and get on another boat. I can’t quite accept that plan,” Scott said.

The report also identifies a “roadmap vessel,” or example of a ferry that provides the required characteristics and could be considered a starting point for ferry construction. The roadmap vessel design carries 300 passengers and 53 vehicles, has 280 seats, and is 278 feet long.

Using the roadmap vessel to approximate expenses, the entire project is expected to cost $107.2 million, with the first ferry contract coming in at $49.2 million and the second at $44.3 million.