DOT will scrap proposed ferry schedule

The M/V Aurora departs the Cordova Ferry Terminal. The vessel, seen here on Sunday, July 21, 2019, is not scheduled to service Prince William Sound between October 2019 and April 2020. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times
The M/V Aurora departs the Cordova Ferry Terminal. Under the previously proposed schedule, the vessel, seen here on Sunday, July 21, 2019, would not have serviced Prince William Sound between Oct. 2019 and April 2020. Photo by Zachary Snowdon Smith/The Cordova Times

A proposed ferry schedule including a seven-month service gap will be scrapped, said Mary Siroky, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation, at a public meeting on Monday, July 29. Siroky addressed by telephone an assembly of 40 Cordova residents who had gathered to offer the DOT feedback on the schedule.

“We are going to scrub this schedule to see if we can eke out even a tiny more bit of service, and we will be asking the unions to work with us to help make that happen,” Siroky said.

Siroky defended the previous schedule as the product of a hard-won compromise with the state legislature.

“We are not going to debate why this schedule is the way it is,” Siroky said, addressing the meeting. “Please, I’m going to ask you all to be polite.”

Most of those in attendance were happy to comply with Siroky’s request, delivering statements against the cuts that were pointed but civil. Several solutions to the Alaska Marine Highway System’s funding shortages were suggested, such as offsetting AMHS operating costs with revenues from toll roads.

Brian Wildrick, owner of Harborside Pizza, addresses the Alaska Department of Transportation in a teleconference. The meeting, held Monday, July 29, heard feedback on a proposed ferry schedule including a seven-month service gap to Prince William Sound.
Brian Wildrick, owner of Harborside Pizza, addresses the Alaska Department of Transportation in a teleconference. The meeting, held Monday, July 29, 2019, heard feedback on a proposed ferry schedule including a seven-month service gap to Prince William Sound.

“Eight months is absurd,” Anica Estes said. “We are the only community without a hospital where women can’t have babies. We are the only community that doesn’t have a full-time veterinarian. We are the only community that doesn’t have an auto body shop for simple repairs… With this proposed schedule, we are going to be more isolated than an island on the Aleutian chain, and that is no joke.”

The most forceful criticisms of the cuts were delivered by Kory Blake.

“We pay our tax dollars and we pay our tunnel dollars, so we’re taxed, taxed, taxed, but we have no service,” Blake said. “Everyone in Anchorage, Palmer, Wasilla, wherever the fishermen live, they benefit all winter long from the dollars they make in Prince William Sound, from our Prince William Sound hatcheries… So, if you guys want to cut your own throat, cut your own throat.”

The teleconference followed a Saturday, July 27 meeting in which Cordova residents offered feedback to the Alaska House Transportation Committee regarding the proposed schedule.