Wanted: Good home for free Alaska icebreaking ferry

Sat Feb 9, 2013 7:02am EST
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By Yereth Rosen

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - Free to a good home: One high-powered, state-of-the-art icebreaking commuter ferry.

Alaska's Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the local government for the region north of Anchorage, is seeking takers for a sophisticated vessel bestowed on it three years ago but which has never been put to its intended use.

The M/V Sustina, an $80-million, Navy-funded prototype, is docked 800 miles southeast of the borough in Ketchikan, the city where it was built and christened.

The ship, obtained with the help of the late Senator Ted Stevens, was intended to be a precursor to the Knik Arm Bridge, a controversial project that would link Port Mackenzie, near Wasilla, to downtown Anchorage.

But dreams of shuttling Matanuska-Susitna commuters to Anchorage via ferry - a scheme that sought to cut a 75-mile (120-km) road trip down to a 2.5-mile (4-km) water crossing - were never realized. Landing facilities for the specialized craft were not built, and local officials said they don't want to provide money for such a project.

Just operating the ferry would cost $2.5 million to $3 million a year, not including any outlays for landing stations on both sides of the water, said borough manager John Moosey.

Local leaders have concluded the ferry operations would eat up too much of the borough's annual $43 million budget, he said.

Meanwhile, monthly maintenance costs are about $60,000, according to borough port director Marc Van Dongen.   Continued...