By DAN FOX
As the long-awaited roll-out of the first Alaska Class Ferry (ACF) approaches next spring, the Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) is looking to add crew quarters to the Tazlina and Hubbard to expand the possibilities for service in the Lynn Canal.
Crew quarters had originally been planned for the ACFs, according to Aurah Landau, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities. The concept was cut from the design as the process continued.
However, as Southeast Conference has continued to work towards a structural reform of the ferry system, the AMHS has been examining the operations side of things, analyzing routes, crewing, vessels and maintenance.
“And all the other things that factor into putting a schedule together,” Landau said. “They [AMHS] have determined that, in order to have the most flexibility to provide service through all kinds of weather…that it makes more sense to put crew quarters on the Alaska Class Ferries.”
AMHS wants to put money towards costs for adding crew quarters to the Hubbard while it is still under construction – a cost of $15 million. When the Tazlina goes into layup after its first season, the crew quarters would be added then.
“The idea was to go back to Legislature and use the original money appropriated for building the Alaska Class Ferries to add the crew quarters on,” Landau said. That option didn’t seem like it would work out, Landau said, so the AMHS is re-strategizing and looking for different funding alternatives for the project.
“The short story is Upper Lynn Canal retains the same service [with crew quarters], and might even have increased service because of that added flexibility in the winter time,” Landau said.
The with/without crew quarters sailing situation for May 1-Sept. 30 breaks down as follows:
• Mainliner services to Haines and Skagway on Mondays/Wednesdays would be the same.
• Instead of the LeConte making the Juneau to Haines/Skagway trip on Tuesdays, the Hubbard will provide service along that route on Fridays.
• Without crew quarters, the Hubbard was planned to run Juneau to Haines Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with the Tazlina running from Skagway to Haines on those same days. With crew quarters, the Hubbard will run from Skagway to Haines to Juneau on those days, and the Tazlina will be deployed in Prince William Sound.
The breakdown for Oct. 1-April 30 ferry service:
• Mainliner service to Haines & Skagway will continue with crew quarters on Mondays and Thursdays.
• The LeConte will run from Juneau to Haines and Skagway on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays as normal, but the Hubbard will be able to cover this route during the LeConte’s 6-8 week annual overhaul.
“I understand Skagway and other communities might want the two ferries,” Landau said.
“But we just want to be sure that the service, reliable service, is provided, and whether it’s an Alaska Class Ferry or another ferry, the service will be provided.”