After many back-and-forths between the state and the Municipality of Skagway regarding the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry float, amendments for the 2018-2021 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) have changed the project from a planned refurbishment to a full replacement.

Marine Highway Ad Hoc Committee Chair Jan Wrentmore said the amendments came as “really good news.”

“They were just going to put a little coating of cement over that old float, even after it sank,” Wrentmore said about the former plan for refurbishment. “It’s a big move on the state’s part.”

The replacement will allow Skagway to receive the new Alaska Class Ferries, which feature different berthing capabilities than current ships. Being able to accommodate these capabilities increases the options for sailings to and from Skagway, Wrentmore said.

Mayor Monica Carlson said prior to the change, Skagway was the “weak link” in the ferry system, as the current float is unable to fit the requirements of the new ferries.

“I applaud the Marine Ad Hoc Committee for all their hard work and perseverance,” Carlson said, adding that both current and previous assemblies have consistently asked for the replacement option.

Also changed in the STIP amendments was the State Street Rehabilitation Project, which had been scheduled for 2018 to the tune of $10,620,000.

That project was moved to a 2020 and 2021 timetable.

The STIP amendments are in a public comments period until Aug. 12.

Also in state transportation news, a document was recently released from the Federal Highway Administration Division (FHWA), in which the “No Action” alternative was selected regarding the Juneau Access Improvement Road.

The document called out a “continued public controversy” as a deciding factor for the decision.

“This project has a history of division, with disagreement among both elected officials and the public on how to proceed. While the need to improve transportation in Lynn Canal is recognized by most, how best to accomplish that remains unresolved,” the FHWA decision states. “Feelings are strong on both sides and sentiment has wavered over the years on whether the solution lies in building a road or improving ferry service.”

Carlson said she understood the viewpoints of those both for and against the road, but with the FHWA decision made  and the STIP amendments “Skagway’s going to be taken care of.”

“Regardless of how you feel about the road, it’s a good thing that we are getting full replacement,” Carlson said about the ferry float.