By Melinda Munson

After two and a half years of efforts, the municipality will gain more autonomy of Broadway Peninsula. In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities announced Nov. 5, Skagway entered an agreement with the state to replace the aging ferry dock with a multi-use dock to better serve the town’s cruise ship based economy.

“…it will significantly increase our waterfront and allow the MOS to diversify and expand in countless ways,” said Mayor Andrew Cremata.

According to a press release from the state, “the new dock would include a dedicated berth designed for Alaska Marine Highway System (AMHS) ferries, a segregated dockside sufficient to satisfy the functional needs of AMHS and its customers, an additional berth for commercial cruise ships, and segregated entrances and exits for both cruise and AMHS passengers as well as an AMHS vehicle loading area.”

The existing ferry dock, built in 1978, sank in 2014 and was refloated. It is considered functional but past its intended lifespan.

Assemblymember Orion Hanson explained how the conversation with the state started.

“…it’s kind of piggybacking on something the governor put out to the communities, asking for the communities to take investment in transportation and take ownership … And this MOU is a great step in that way to say that, we want to participate, we’re willing to pay for it, we’re willing to do it. We want the ferry, we want to support the needs we have for transportation in our water based community.”

Cremata emphasized that a multi-use dock will enable small cruise ships to berth as Skagway expects an increase in larger cruise ships. The borough is also hoping to launch their own electric ferry pilot program.

Per the agreement, the municipality is responsible for “locating funding for the new project” and “the maintenance expenses incurred in the operation of the project facilities.” DOT would reimburse the borough for “its proportionate share of the operation and maintenance of the newly constructed dock…”

The assembly voted unanimously to approve the MOU on Sept. 16.

“This has huge implications,” said Assemblymember Deb Potter.  “And I think sometimes, when the public doesn’t feel like things are happening, that things are being taken care of, it’s maybe because people don’t realize you’ve been having meetings for two and a half years that resulted in something like this. So I appreciate everybody’s hard work.”

As long as it took to procure the MOU, Cremata described it as just the beginning of the lengthy process of redeveloping Broadway Peninsula.

“It’s the first step,” he said. “The community is going to have ample time to weigh in.”