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. 2/8

    .....way to go, Palin.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      I'm not even close to a Palin fan, but what does she have to do with this? She was governor for, like, a minute. Do all Democrats a favor and keep your anger-baiting ignorance to yourself - it's not helping anyone.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brad5013

      Careful folks. John must have forgotten to take his pills again . . .

      September 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ks

    Alaskan here! I want our current system of roads to be fixed!! all three of them!!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Is Alaska still a state?

      When did they build the third???

      September 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. vbdvbd

    If they want this they should pay it out of the Alaska Permanent Fund so they are wasting their own money.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Why should Alaska be different than anyone else, in the lower 48??????

      September 28, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Capt Phil Harris

    I love deadliest catch...if this helps their show, then spend 1 billion dollars. I don't care.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheThinker

      AMEN!!!!

      September 28, 2011 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mike Misner

    Really? Wonder how much Trident Seafood paid Alaskan politicians to earmark this travesty.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ted

      It's the qway most of the world works. Our lovely senator in AZ doesn't believe in that earmark, pork spending so we keep our state in turmoil.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      If Trident needs it then build it!

      September 28, 2011 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Better roads = more shipping! More jobs?

      September 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  6. apeman

    bet you have a pretty mouth.....

    September 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank Garrett

    Impeach Omaba!

    September 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bad... but still better than Bush...

      What's an Omaba??

      September 28, 2011 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bill in Florida

      Why? What does the President have to do with this?

      September 28, 2011 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • vtxrider

      "On Nov. 6, 2009, then-Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Transportation Leo von Scheben assured a Legislative Budget and Audit Committee that the Akutan aiport could be built for the projected budget of $77 million."

      I didn't know that the President was also part of the Alaska state legislature.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • wsucouga

      Omaba?? Stay in school

      September 28, 2011 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grammer Troll

      You spelled Obama rong.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Write it off to HHS, the Arabs are envious of our snow, and oil, We need a better roads so the military can put down demonstrations!!

      September 28, 2011 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bill

    This is criminal. Where can I get a list of the Congressmen and Senators who voted for this? They should be put in jail.

    September 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      Pretty much applies to all of them who voted the continuing Bailout for too big to fail! Stop the wars and let the troops build roads instead!

      September 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Politico

    $77 Million to save $700,000 per year. But the new runway does not eliminate the $700,000; it COULD reduce that amount.

    So break even in 110 years with no additional savings. Cut the $700,000 spending in half to $350,000, and we break even in 220 years. Typical government logic. Can I git me some of that?

    September 28, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      No sorry we are out of logic.. The man down the docks said they were due for a shipment from the ice road truckers but the box overtuned and then the second supply sank up the straight.. They think they are going to get a sea plane in next week but they can only bring in half as much.. no I might beable to score you a pinch of logic on wednesday.. but thats really guna cost you.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Tom Atkins

    This project is well worth while my buddy owns the construction company who got the contract for this and he agrees with me.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      yeah cause he's gettin the greese...

      September 28, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Rob

    If it gets Sarah Palin to go back home, I'd say it's money well spent.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      she discovered shopping malls and starbux on the campaign traill.. shes never coming back.. thats why she quit her job..

      September 28, 2011 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • PoliticiansLieandCheat

      She, stay in school. It's Starbucks. Nice try though.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • pbj

      Hey Rob we don't want her here.. you guys can have her down there lmao

      September 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grammer Troll

      PoliticiansLieandCheat: there's supposed to be a comma after try. Stay in school.

      September 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. She.

    "Transportation
    Boats and amphibious aircraft are the only means of transportation into Akutan. A 200 ft. dock and a small boat mooring basin are available. The state ferry operates from Kodiak bi-monthly between May and October. Cargo is delivered weekly by freighter from Seattle; the city owns and operates a landing craft. Akutan has no airstrip due to the steep terrain; however, a 10,000' by 1,000' seaplane base is available and open to the public. There is air service to nearby Unalaska. High waves may limit accessibility during winter months. "

    Dances with Wolves man.. leave it alone.. its sacred.

    http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CIS.cfm?Comm_Boro_Name=Akutan

    September 28, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      Just get them a new fleet of seaplanes and leave it alone..

      September 28, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Obvious

    Look at the terrain map at the top. The elevation goes from sea level to 1,500 feet in less than the length of the runway all around the town. The only flat piece of land is on the other island, where the put the runway....

    September 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. cpc65

    These people lived off the land for tens of thousands of years before we came to this continent. Why do they need an airport again?

    September 28, 2011 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • BigBill

      They didn't have toilet paper back then.

      September 28, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BigBill

    The V22 Osprey would be perfect for this job and eliminate the need for the runway.

    September 28, 2011 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
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