A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?
The route a hovercraft would take between the village of Akutan and the runway on Akun Island.
September 28th, 2011
12:56 PM ET

A $64 million runway for no one in Alaska?

Remember Alaska's "Bridge to Nowhere," a $400 million span that was supposed to connect Ketchikan to its airport on sparsely inhabited Gravina Island? The project gained infamy in 2005 as a waste of taxpayer dollars and the funds earmarked for it were withheld. The 8,000 residents of Ketchikan continue to be connected to their airport by ferry.

Fast forward six years and another remote Alaskan airport project is raising questions about how the government spends money.

The price this time is $77 million and the place is Akutan, a remote island village in the Aleutian chain, according to a report from the Alaska Dispatch.

By next winter Akutan is scheduled to have a 4,500-foot-long runway, built at a cost of $64 million ($59 million in federal and $5 million state funds), the Dispatch reports. The problem is, the runway is on Akun Island, 6 miles from the village across the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea. Plying those waters can be tricky with seas over 6 feet and winds above 30 mph.

Original plans called for using a hovercraft - at a cost of $11 million - to ferry passengers from Akutan to Akun. But, the Dispatch points out, the same model hovercraft planned for the route has proven unreliable under similar conditions elsewhere in Alaska. And when it did run, operating losses were in the millions.

Now, transportation officials are considering using a helicopter to ferry passengers from Akutan, according to the Dispatch report. Cost of that is still being determined.

Should officials get it all figured out and funded, who'll benefit? Akutan has a year-round population of 100, but that spikes to about 1,000 in the summer when Trident Seafoods processing plant, the largest seafood processing plant in North America, is in operation, the Dispatch reports. Trident is contributing $1 million to the project, the Dispatch says.

And why is this necessary? Air service to Akutan is now provided by World War II-era amphibious aircraft operated by Peninsula Airways. Those are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain, Peninsula Vice President Brian Carricaburu told the Dispatch.

Carricaburu also says the runway could cut the government's costs in one way. Peninsula Airways routes to Akutan are now subsidized by about $700,000 annually under the federal Essential Air Service program. Using bigger, more efficient aircraft could bring that cost down, he told the Dispatch.

But to reach that point, it looks like a lot of figurative bridges have to be crossed.

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Filed under: Air travel • Alaska • Travel
soundoff (937 Responses)
  1. mercenary76

    This is stupid , Americans should stop all of the stupid . True there is an incredible amount of stupid and it would take a lot of stopping .

    September 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Walker

      yep, we'd be stupid and stupider

      September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      Well, at least we won't have to worry about stupid Sarah anymore; because once the TeaBaggers got wind of Sarah Palin sleeping with that Black Stud, Big Dog (they will never support her again). HEY, GLEN DID SARAH GIVE U THAT NICKNAME BIG DOG

      September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • lexgreen

      It would be stupid to write about something as "stupid" without saying what is stupid. It would be stupifying too.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dexter

      You are stupid! You are stupid! And don't forget....You are stupid!!

      September 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheThinker

      I think that the powerful simply exploit the system, which is especially easy when voters can be fooled into being polarized into disrespecting each other. Divide, then conquer.
      Calling people names feels great but it stopped working in the 2nd grade. I should hope that we have all progressed past that.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justin Case

      My Grandma used to say: "Being stupid isn't a crime.

      But it should be."

      September 28, 2011 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Troy

    What does this mean? " Plying those waters can be tricky with seas over 6 feet and winds above 30 mph."

    What are "seas over 6 feet"? Was that supposed to be "waves over 6 feet high" or is it "seas over 6 feet deep"?

    September 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      Seas over 6 feet is fully correct. Look up the definition if seas. It means more than plural of 'sea'. Probably more use din maritime language than every day speak, but it's perfectly good English.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • FauxNewz

      ....and Troy, what do they mean by winds above 30 mph? Does that mean the winds go up vertically at 30 mph or are they horizontal at 30 mph. They need to be more specific about every measurement because, obviously, they are reporting to idiots.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Walker

      Troy, don't be a knucklehead

      September 28, 2011 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alaskan

      FauxNewz – good one.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      @Jan: Thanks. That makes sense. I've never heard the word used that way. I've heard of "strong seas," but never "seas over 6 feet." I guess I learned something new today.

      However, when reporting in media directed at the average person, it's generally better to use terms most people can understand. "Seas over 6 feet" is a term that most people won't understand. "Waves over 6 feet high" would have made more sense to the average person. You never see a news article discussing how many fathoms deep the water is or how many knots a boat was going. Even though people know the terms, most don't know how to translate them into units of measurements they're familiar with, so the news articles refer to how many feet the water is or how many MPH (or KPH) a boat was going.

      @FauxNewz: Before you say that they're reporting to idiots, keep in mind that as a reader of the article, they're reporting to you.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troytroy

      You make Troy angry. You leave stupid Troy alone. He come bam bam you in head. Duh.

      Vote Obama/Troy in 2012.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Troy

      Yes no make me mad. Me really Tahngarth and me will crush you with Tahngarth's Rage!

      September 28, 2011 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  3. drew2505

    Im waiting for Sarah Palin to chime in....

    seems to be the smartest one up there....shes the poster girl for cashing in big off the taxpayer.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Flinstone

      There's a Sarah hater in every post on the Ticker.
      Your mamma should have beat you more as a child. you obviously didn't learn any manners.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeachAman

      Dont pick on Sarah ... you cant blame the hogs when the pork-barrel buffet is set right in front of them – what did you expect them to do?

      September 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • jknows

      @Fred Flinstone apparently it's ok to bad mouth the President of the United States but it's bad manners to bad mouth Sarah Palin. OK?!?!?!

      September 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      This is Sarah, I am not around anymore. I SLEPT WITH BIG DOG, AND I AM LOOKIN FOR MO AND I MEAN MO. CURLEY'S BROTHER

      September 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • pastafaria

      @Fred "Your mamma should have beat(sic) you more as a child. you(sic) obviously didn't learn any manners." And your mother should have read to you more often as a child. You obviously didn't learn any grammar."

      September 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheThinker

      @drew: I've got to agree that Palin should be derided for "cashing in". None of the other politicians do that.
      [/sarcasm]

      September 28, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Alaskan too

    The bridge to nowhere...It was and is still a need that due to politics was dumped but once visitors come to Ketchikan and see the need, everyone understands and understand the bad politics that were involved. The airport is not just for the city residents but for the whole borough with a 2000 census population of 14,070, with the borough seat being Ketchikan. At present just for my family of 4 to get to the airport, we are looking at over $30 per trip, whether we are desiring to welcome a visitor or leaving the island ourselves. The bridge should have been built. On the other hand, I have flown from Dutch Harbor to Akutan and when the weather is bad, we have to go by boat as the goose is unable to make the flight. An airport is much needed but in its currently proposed location, it will not work or be a benefit to the island or it's people. Surely with all the politics involved someone should be smart enough to come up with a workable solution that when the money is spent, it is spent wisely....Of course, smart is not a word connected to our politicians.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      So I should subsidize your bridge with million so you can save 30$ when you want to go and greet people at the airport? You got to be kidding!!

      September 28, 2011 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • TeachAman

      Like Sam Kinnison said "if you dont like starving in the desert, move to where the food is!" I'm against spending millions to subsidize your decision to live in the middle of nowhere.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • DamnYankee

      Give me a break. $400,000,000 divided by 14,000 residents is $28,570 EACH for a bridge that is most likely used infrequently by most of the residents. WE have to recognize that ALL Federal expenditures ultimately come from our citizens. Ask yourself – would I spend my own money for this? Would you spend $28,570 of my own money so I can take a bridge and not spend $30 on the Ferry? It may be inconvenient – but its reality.

      September 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • alaskan resident that feeds you

      It's not a 30 dollar ferry ride you need to worry about. Its the millions each year your are already susidizing to cover the maintenance costs on the ferry to the island. The bridge is less costly over the long haul because it requires less maintenace, gas, crew salarys. The main reason for the high cost to the bridge is the fact that large ocean going ships have to pass underneath it.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Duffey

    The people of the State of Alaska and their Republican Congressman are a bunch of hypocrites. Where is Sarah when you need her.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      This is Sarah again, I'm Laughning & SNORTING COKE & LOOKIN FOR SOMETHING VERY LARGE & ROUND & HARD BUT DON'T TELL FIRST DUDE

      September 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Alaskan too

    The bridge to nowhere...It was and is a need that due to politics was dumped but once visitors come to Ketchikan and see the need, everyone understands and understand the bad politics that were involved. The airport is not just for the city residents but for the whole borough with a 2000 census population of 14,070, with the borough seat being Ketchikan. At present just for my family of 4 to get to the airport, we are looking at over $30 per trip, whether we are desiring to welcome a visitor or leaving the island ourselves. The bridge should have been built. On the other hand, I have flown from Dutch Harbor to Akutan and when the weather is bad, we have to go by boat as the goose is unable to make the flight. An airport is much needed but in its currently proposed location, it will not work or be a benefit to the island or it's people. Surely with all the politics involved someone should be smart enough to come up with a workable solution that when the money is spent, it is spent wisely....Of course, smart is not a word connected to our politicians.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JomoDaMusicMan

      You, idiots are so scared that some poor person on welfare in the inner city is taking an extra loaf of bread off taxpayers. But many of u supports idiotic schemes like this & bridge to nowhere. Paying millions & billions of dollars on these unjust Wars in the Middle East & Africa. America is history repeating itself, ROME IS BURNING, BUT NERO ISN'T THE ONLY ONE HERE PLAYING HIS OR HER HARP OR FIDDLE

      September 28, 2011 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Smokingman

    Maybe it would have been cheaper to move the processing plant.... duh....

    September 28, 2011 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jan

      You can't. It has to be close to where the boats dock and off load.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smokingman

      So the Federal government should spend $77 million on this? I wonder what companies are getting the bulk of the contracts and who they know.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Wizza

    Build it! This is a case where mob rule should be ignored. Build this project, build all the infrastructure projects that are out there. Do them because they are hard, not easy. Do them because corporations won't. Do them because the construction will create a lot of jobs. Do them because it will create and protect American industry and jobs in the long term. Do it now because, nobody seems to realize, this is a difficult recession. If these people were around in the day, there'd be no interstates, no intercontinental railroad, no Mt. Rushmore, no Hoover Dam. This is jobs and there are hundreds of projects like this across the country. We need them now and we'll take the value they bring when they're done! The government is the main employer right now- bring it on!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      The corporations will.. If it is not done for them..

      September 28, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. steve

    I would do Sarah Palin in a heartbeat.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Smokingman

      Do what? treat her like the tramp she is?

      September 28, 2011 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Apparently it's been done before...

      September 28, 2011 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kyle

    Everytime I see this wasteful spending I make a note of it. At the end of the year, I tally up all of this wasteful spending, and they pro-rate this amount based on my estimated share of all federal income taxes paid. I then cheat on my taxes to lower the amount I pay by the amount of wasteful spending that is pro-rated to my portion of Federal taxes. I ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO PAY FOR THIS NONSENSE!!!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. vikingroovin

    move the 100 people from said village to the other island would be cheaper yet no fairy or helicopters required. screw the seafood company they are the biggest in the country they have money to move to the other island too.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • alaskan resident that feeds you

      To bad the fish can't be moved to another island that are caught there.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Doug

    The government just doesn't get it. The needs of the many outwieght the needs of the few and with fewer dollars every dollar counts. This is just plan poor overall planning and execution. This is about making businesses richer whhile the average Joe/Mary have to pay the tab.

    September 28, 2011 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Brownstain

    I like cheese!!

    September 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Anne

    I knew it!!! I knew it was going to be in Alaska

    I bet they want it to have access to the bridge to nowhere!!! (and for the ones with stupid comments coming, it's meant to be a joke)

    September 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Roger Hinson

    Again we see the idiots in our government so eager to waste money. Do they go to some school to learn how to be stupid or are we stupid for voting them in? All we ever hear is that we need to be taxed more because there is no money, well ALL of you politicians, listen up – there is no money because you keep spending our tax money on stupid stuff like this idiotic plan. If I had my way, every person that is voted in would be out without pension or any other benefits and all new ones would be voted in for a two or at most a four year term. If you can't do something good in that time frame then you go because you are not needed. Isn't this what happens to us regular Americans if we don't perform or come up with stupid ideas like this airport, we would be fired and there is no golden parachute. Same with ALL of you CEO's that really can't do the job, but you then steal millions when they fire you. These are the reasons America is in such bad shape. This is the best country in the world, but you people are ruining everything that every service man or woman fought for. You should be ashamed of yourselves.

    September 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • alaskan resident that feeds you

      Are you awake? Do you not realize that these people living on this island are feeding you. They provide food to your table at the cost of living on a remote island at the only safe harbor to pull boats into to process the fish. They can't just up and move unless of course you don't want to eat.

      September 28, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinks2010

      Alaskan Resident That Feeds You–I live in the state that produces 1/3 of the food consumed in the United States (and is a seafood producing state) and pays more in federal taxes than it gets back to support states like Alaska. I'd really love it if Alaska would agree to pay $77 million to my state for a project that makes things more convenient for a little more than 1,000 people but I'm not holding my breath. Oh, and before you start off on that diatribe about Alaskan oil, my state is also an oil producing state. Sorry, but as far as I'm concerned this costly project just doesn't make the cut.

      September 29, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
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