Exactly what service reductions proposed for the Alaska Marine Highway System could mean for Prince Rupert is unknown at this time.
The State of Alaska’s transportation department is proposing reductions in Alaska Marine Highway System service as part of an effort to cut costs. The subject was brought up in a House Finance Committee overview of the department’s budget on Feb. 9.
It has been estimated that by reducing mainliner service to communities in southeast Alaska and pushing back the start of service between Prince Rupert and Juneau, the Alaskan government could save $3 million a year.
“The department has proposed delaying the return to service date for the M/V Taku, which would effectively reduce the summer port calls to Prince Rupert from four sailings per week to two sailings per week,” explained Jeremy Woodrow, communications officer of Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
“It’s important to note that the department has proposed service reductions but that these are not final until the State of Alaska Operating Budget has been finalized and passed by the legislature this April.”
Tourism Prince Rupert chair Scott Farwell said the group is always concerned when transportation to and from the community is reduced, but it’s remaining hopeful.
“I understand most of the cuts are resulting from the decline in the price of oil and the challenge that creates for the Alaskan economy. Hopefully it’s short-lived,” Farwell said.
“A low dollar and a low price of fuel should help with the visitors in our region, as well. So it’s kind of a good/bad scenario.”
Prince Rupert and District Chamber of Commerce president John Farrell said it’s too early to know how the cuts would impact the business community.
“The Alaskan Marine Highway sees 15,000 passengers travel between our two nations every year. That’s an important connector,” he said.
“I understand that the Alaskan government is dealing with a projected multi-million dollar budget deficit and that cuts to services are a solution. These are choices that need to be made.”