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. Lillian DeGuiche

    I see the name Trident Seafood, but really now – PORK is PORK is PORK

    September 29, 2011 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  2. Michael T Murphy

    I agree totally and would like to add that your statement also pertains to this whole economy. The Republicans want to paint Obama with this depression but it belongs to bush and the failed Republican Policies that every one of their presidential candidates are preaching now, except for Ron Paul, who is just to far out there.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. GG

    What were your thoughts on John Murtha's airport for no one in PA? I guess since he was a big democrat that was OK. I agree – this is an enormous waste of money and I can almost assure you it will be nixed.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  4. Disgustipated

    I think this has alot to do with the indigionous tribe that lives on the Island and Trident wanting to use their land as a base of operations. The whole island is one big rocking volcano and they get 3.5 magnitude tremors constantly.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Mike Lake Orion Michigan

    More waste. And people trust a Government run health care program called "Obama Care"? You'd have to be completely out of your mind. Other examples are Solyndra, Fast and Furious ect.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
    • hello fox news

      Hey mike stop watching fox. You sound like a tape on rerun. Come up with your own ideas instead of pumping out crap that you heard about but really dont know about

      September 29, 2011 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Philip

      hello fox news! Don't you believe in free speech. There is nothing worse than a closed minded Demo-c Rat.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • ed

      How about we give the Federal budget to an ordinary, average, middle class, house wife and let her rip into it. SHe'll have it fixed in no time flat with plenty of money left over!

      September 29, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
    • MLOM

      Apparently you missed the $400 MILLION proposed project in 2005. Who was president then? Oh wait... Even if this one goes through, that's, what, 15% of the costs? Who's the bigger waster?

      September 29, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Louisiana Man

      REMINDER: Your conservative's cronies are part of the government-as a matter of fact-they control the house-
      and seeing that Alaska is a RED state-Your pals, like the late SEN STEVENS-gorged at the public trough- earmarks- for wasteful spending more than anyone and the GOP drones sat silent.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
    • hello fox news

      I believe in freedom of speech Phillip and I know you do to. You right wing tea baggers take everything to the extreme and speak so loud you drown out the rest of us average joe's who are moderates. Phil, life is short, and people like you make it shorter.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  6. geoz

    tragic. Imagine what 280 schools could do with an extra $250K. That would be all of the high schools and middle schools in the state of Vermont.... x2.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Or of course we could save the taxpayers some money and avoid additional debt. The federal government has NO business in schools either.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:06 am | Report abuse |
    • ed

      Touché Tom!

      September 29, 2011 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Philip

      Good thinking Tom.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Willie12345

    What 64 Million between tax paying friends? Our government is so so so screwed up.

    September 29, 2011 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. twiddly

    let Trident pay for this!

    September 29, 2011 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |
  9. Walsh

    Does sound a little excessive for such a small population but i can see the need for reliable connectivity. How about a mis ground solution? how about a a heliport large enough for for 5 V-22 Osprey's? best of both worlds. airplane transit speed and reliability and helicopter versatility.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:05 am | Report abuse |
  10. ed

    I have to ask, how many people are on this remote island and where is it they fly to so much?

    September 29, 2011 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      Many remote towns/villages in Alaska do not have year round roads that connect them to the rest of the world. Small aircraft are the only way in and out (and it is cheaper then maintiaing a 500 mile long road to no where).
      Oh and Paul NYC, do you know that Trident gives execs lavish bonuses, or are you just making assumtions?

      September 29, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  11. boston

    SARAH PALIN'S ALASKA!!!!!

    September 29, 2011 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • ed

      She doesn't own the state. She's just a citizen.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Madarain

      Nothing to do with Palin, you broken record doosh.

      September 29, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Paul NYC

    This should have been a project paid for by Trident, the primary beneficiary. The Board of Directors should shift some of the bonuses paid to execs and pay for the runway outright. More corporate welfare for companies that are swimming in money.

    September 29, 2011 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  13. Philip

    Boston BUTT HEAD !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! How come every time someone says Alaska some idiot says Sarah Palin?

    September 29, 2011 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • phil

      Why are you so angry? You must be a Demo-c Rat

      September 29, 2011 at 10:08 am | Report abuse |
  14. Steve

    THE Question is: Which senator and congressperson did their due diligence, thought it was a wonderful idea to benefit huge numbers of Alaskans and then decided to submit for the funding? What is that persons name?

    September 29, 2011 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. lindsey

    my bestfriend makes $77 an hóur on the cómputer. She has been out of job for 9 months but last month her check was $7,487 just working on the computer for a few hours. See it here CashHard.cóm

    September 29, 2011 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
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