KUCB KIAL Unalaska Community Broadcasting

TRANSPORTATION

Pipa Escalante/KUCB

The only air carrier for the Pribilof Islands is asking for financial support to keep its remote market afloat.

PenAir has requested the U.S. Department of Transportation subsidize flights to St. Paul and St. George Islands, which are guaranteed Essential Air Service.

Berett Wilber/KUCB

Between PenAir’s struggles and a new city bus proposal, transportation dominated the discussion at Tuesday's City Council meeting.

The Planning Department is piloting a bus route as part of its $5,000 transportation study.

Planning Director Bill Homka said the goal is to figure out how the city can help Unalaskans and visitors get around more easily.

Nancy Heise

While the M/V Tustumena sits in the shipyard for another two months, residents of southwest Alaska have another option for cargo service.

The Seattle-based Coastal Transportation company has offered to carry cargo along the Tustumena’s route while the ferry undergoes unexpected repairs.

“It doesn’t completely solve the problem, but it definitely helps to alleviate some of the crisis,” said Meadow Bailey of the Alaska Department of Transportation.

Nancy Heise

Repairs have delayed the M/V Tustumena more than a month, forcing the Alaska Marine Highway System to cancel several sailings for southwest Alaska.

The ferry was supposed to return to service May 27. But now, officials say the Tustumena won’t be fit to leave its Ketchikan shipyard until July 18.

“There was some discovery during its annual overhaul that there was additional, extensive steel waste in the engine room," said Meadow Bailey, spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Transportation. "That repair will take about two months longer to complete.”

Zoe Sobel/KUCB

The state's plan to build a new ferry for southwest Alaska has been fast-tracked.

Originally, construction was scheduled to start in 2019, but now contractors could begin building the new ship as early as next year.

Communications Officer Jeremy Woodrow says the Alaska Department of Transportation (DOT) wants to replace the Tustumena ferry as soon as possible.

"It's more than 50 years old, it runs in one of the more harsh climates in the world, and it's shown its age more than other vessels in the fleet that are around similar age," said Woodrow.