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State Study Finds Widespread Economic Benefits of Alaska Ferry System

February 4, 2016

(JUNEAU, Alaska) – The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities today released a report on the economic impacts of the Alaska Marine Highway System. The report, prepared by the Juneau-based McDowell Group, found that the state-run ferry system generates a return of more than $2 to the state for every $1 invested.

"The ferry system provides a critical link for many communities," Governor Bill Walker said. “But I was surprised to learn just how widespread the economic impacts are, accounting for 1,700 Alaska jobs and more than $100 million in wages and benefits.

The report found Anchorage residents were the number two source of bookings, after Juneau. Other key findings include:

  • Two-thirds of AMHS users are Alaska residents.
  • The state's general fund investment of $117 million in 2014 resulted in a total return on investment of $273 million.
  • Over half of all summer ferry passengers visit Anchorage.
  • AMHS nonresident summer passengers spend an average of $1300 per person while in Alaska
  • Nonresident summer passengers who enter or exit Alaska via AMHS spend an average of $1700 – compared to $941 average of among all Alaska summer visitors.
  • AMHS carried 319,000 passengers, 108,000 vehicles, and almost 4,000 container vans in 2014.

"This study demonstrates why our marine highway system is a vital part of Alaska’s transportation system," Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallott said. "I look forward to working with coastal communities to strengthen this system in the coming years."

The report also studied three ferry-dependent communities in depth, finding that the marine highway system is integral to their economies. For example, Copper River Seafoods in Cordova relies on ferry service to transport millions of pounds of fresh seafood from Cordova to Whittier, where it is trucked to Anchorage. The company supports 250 seasonal and 100 full-time jobs in Anchorage.

"A dependable transportation system helps fuel the economy. It's critical that we maintain a viable marine highway system as we look to reduce state spending," said ADOT&PF Commissioner Marc Luiken.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 249 airports, 11 ferries serving 35 communities, 5,619 miles of highway and 720 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.