Inter-Island ferry start-up delayed

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2000

KETCHIKAN (AP) -- The Inter-Island Ferry Authority's new service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island will begin about six months later than anticipated, a spokesman said Monday.

A vessel on the Hollis-to-Ketchikan route was supposed to come on line in spring 2001, but design delays and higher cost estimates pushed the start date back to October 2001, said IFA interim administrator Jim Van Altvorst.

''It's behind the schedule that we originally anticipated, but maybe the original schedule wasn't realistic,'' Van Altvorst told the Ketchikan Daily News.

One reason for the delay is that Elliott Bay Design Group took longer than planned to complete the ferry design, said Van Altvorst. The final design, which was supposed to be completed several months ago, should be approved by the IFA board of directors at its meeting Wednesday in Thorne Bay, he said.

Also, design changes boosted cost estimates from $10.5 million to $11.2 million, said Van Altvorst. The $700,000 increase forced the IFA Board of Directors to rework its financial plan.

The six-month delay could create additional financial strains for the nonprofit port authority, said Van Altvorst.

''The ferry will come out at a time that is less than optimal for IFA initiating operations,'' he said. ''We wanted to start operations during the maximum travel time.''

IFA had hoped profits from the summer season would subsidize ferry operations in the winter, he said.

''We have about zero for cash,'' Van Altvorst said.

At its meeting Wednesday, the IFA board will consider a plan to make up for the shortfall that includes scaled-back winter operations and higher fares.

''We're just saying, 'Here's an idea about ways to reduce the cost of operation,''' Van Altvorst said. ''We don't know how the board will react to this.''

The plan suggests cutting the number of daily roundtrips from two to one between October 2001 and April 2002. In May, service would increase to two daily roundtrips.

IFA should be able to continue operating two roundtrips from that point on, said Van Altvorst.

''The plan is to provide as much service as we can afford,'' he said.

The scenario also calls for a 12.5 percent increase over the Alaska Marine Highway System's summer ticket prices.

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