The state Department of Transportation released their proposed Southeast ferry schedule for the 2017 fiscal year Thursday.
The proposed schedule lays out sailing dates and times for October through April. Wrangell’s ferry terminal would see 22 less sailings during those months compared to 2015. That would mean 14 less sailings to Ketchikan and eight less to Petersburg. The 2017 summer schedule has yet to be set.
Ferry spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the state’s proposed budget for the Alaska Marine Highway System is down about 15 million dollars from the 2016 fiscal year.
“The marine highway system budget has been reduced quite a bit in the last several legislative cycles, and that is reflected in less operating weeks this year or this proposed year compared to the last four or five years,” said Woodrow.
Governor Bill Walker called the state Legislature into a special session to pass the state’s budget for the new fiscal year Thursday. The 30-day special session, which begins Monday, will need to be passed before the ferry schedule can be finalized.
Woodrow said Transportation officials hope the budget will remain the same once past.
“There is potential that would change what the winter schedule would be,” he said.
The proposed schedule is based off traffic reports, according to Woodrow
“We have a pretty good idea about the traffic in and out of communities and when people are traveling. We work with school districts, we work with communities,” he said “We want to hear from our users to see if there are changes that need to be made that can be made.”
Officials will be accepting written public comment through June 21 and will be holding a public teleconference on the 22 at 10 am. That meeting will take place at AMHS’ Ketchikan office for those who want to attend in person. The final schedule for fall, winter and spring could be set by July.