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. bozon

    The unanswered question is, who paid off who to get this pork project funded??

    September 28, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Who paid off whom

      Well, Trident Seafoods employees gave over $50,000 to the campaign of Sen Ted Stevens (R) Alaska. Looks like they got a bargain.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ricky Bobby

    This is the kind of crap the feds shouldn't be involved in at all. They can pay me, and I'll pile them in my car and jump that son o' gun. Shake and bake!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • boogietime

      I would love to see you jump a car 6 miles. It will save costs for your welfare and food stamps.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. She.

    Well.. maybe they should just declare it a wildlife reserve and be done with the whole thing..

    September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  4. joel

    Palin prolly Ok'd this when she was govenor before she QUIT =P

    September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Vader

    It sounds to me like these folk shouldn't be living in a wasteland and having taxpayers help them out... they should buy their own boat, or move to a place with... i don't know... a bus route?

    September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. whatever

    this sounds like it was earmarked for a "specific" company to expand their business at taxpayers' expense. if that company can shell out $1 million... they can finance the $77 million over time. GET A LOAN! NOT FREE MONEY FROM ME!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sashatree

      It's about giving oil companies better access so that they can continue their disgusting raping of our planet. Wake up folks.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      next year the headline will be, "seafood company goes bankrupt after receiving 400 million airport subsidy. Investigators discover money diverted into account used to start up local resource surveying group listing large oil distributor as key Investor" BEcause thats how this stuff works eh..

      September 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pete

    I'll give you $1 million and you'll build me a $77 million airport? ??? What is wrong with this picture?

    September 28, 2011 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • boogietime

      You didn't get the $200 million airport you originally asked for.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Keith

    This is another example of the federal government spending a lot of money to benefit 100 natives on that island. Here is an idea. Cut the project, kill it, stop it, save the money. If the folks that live on that island don't like or can't afford to pay their way to travel off island, then move!!!! Where in the hell is it written that just because a few people want to live on a remote island the rest of us get to build multi-million dollar runways and airports to make life easier for them???? This nonsense has to stop.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      Dances with Wolves..

      September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  9. AmazonGirl999

    FKING Alaska AGAIN with this ish. Just YESTERDAY people said I was wrong when I said that there is PLENTY of money for the Democrats' disaster relief bill. But nooo, all the t-bags insisted that funding for legitimate stuff MUST be cut to pay for it. Sure enough, not a day goes by and voila! We've already found ANOTHER pile of money being wasted on a state that, if not for the oil, America wouldn't have even wanted in the first place. And in return for letting them be a part of this country they thanked us by attacking us their own weapons of mass fkking STUPIDITY in the form of a moose-hunting religious nutbag, a $400 million bridge to nowhere, a $300 million dollar ROAD to nowhere(it was for the bridge and oh, so you know, it's a TOLL road and yes they DO pay people to stand there charging money to use it), and now an airport in the MIDDLE of nowhere full of ancient rust bucket planes and a cheap a$$ inflatable raft with a fan on it to haul fish around.

    Let the day finally come that we're done with oil, and I'll be HAPPY to support their bid for secession on the sole condition that no one from that state EVER sets foot in this country again.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • BBoy

      Write a letter to Congressman Don Young (R) of Alaska!

      September 28, 2011 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  10. BeenThere

    I've actually anchored off of Akutan and am surprised to hear that it had even 1000 people. That being said, they pay taxes like everyone else but because of thier remoteness never get to benefit from the service they provide like the rest of us. They probably need and deserve an airport.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      then they should file a bonds initive to pay for it... be airport is not for the people.. the airport is really for the company.. if it were just the people.. they could buy new planes and be done with it..

      September 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • malcolmscott

      So. Because these people who choose to live in a remote pay taxes all the rest of us must pay to give them a way to get around easier?

      September 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  11. MIke T

    It's time for Ron Paul!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. malcolmscott

    Another "Bridge to Nowhere" project. How many of these does Alaska get before we just sell them back to Russia? They get more money back from the government than the people pay in taxes. So if we sell them back be will come out in the black.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • humtake

      Alaska contributes more to our economy by way of fishing and oil than most states combined in America.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • malcolmscott

      That doesn't change the fact of what I said. More money goes in than comes out.

      September 28, 2011 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  13. humtake

    Honestly, every state has useless projects. It's probably a lot better to pick on the ones that don't contribute to our bottom line as much as Alaska does. We have plenty of other states that are of no use to us and we still spend money on them...like Massachusetts.

    September 28, 2011 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • She.

      That is complete BS.. we should coddle alaska because they want to mine oil out of it and destroy the local environment ...

      September 28, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • malcolmscott

      Actually Mass. is in the bottom 10% when it comes to total fed dollars spent in relation to dollars coming out.

      September 28, 2011 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • what.

      Alaska's GDP was only $45.6 billion in 2010, putting them at rank 45 out of 50 States (46 out of 50 States + DC). Massachusetts, on the other hand, was at $377.7 billion in 2010, and was 12/50 (or 51 if you want to include DC). Per capita, you're correct that Alaska comes out slightly higher than Massachusetts, ranked #2 (or #3 including DC) versus #5 (or #6 including DC). Alaska also receives $1.84 federal tax dollars for every $1.00 federal tax dollar the state sends out, which is subsidized in part by states like Massachusetts that receives $0.84 for every $1.00 they send to the government.

      I guess what I'm saying is that your statement is, at best, factually questionable, and that if it weren't for those 'no use' states like Massachusetts, Alaskans would have a seriously cut back lifestyle.

      References:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_GDP
      http://www.visualeconomics.com/united-states-federal-tax-dollars/

      September 28, 2011 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. BBoy

    Well this is rich! The Congressman for the area, Don Young, is a Republican! Explain that Tea Party and right wing "we have to cut social programs" Republicans!!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Mr. E

    Imagine that! Another "BIG" corporation getting an extraordinary amount of money from the government in order to serve their needs. If they want it so bad, they should pay out of their own pocket so the government can use the money for everyday Americans who actually need. Please stop bending over backwards for the big corporations and help the American people!!!!!

    September 28, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
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