Alaska Marine Highway Reform Project

The AMHS Reform initiative is a statewide collaboration of stakeholders, including businesses, communities and Tribes seeking to reform and revitalize the state’s ferry system in order to improve its efficacy and ensure its long-term sustainability. The effort is managed by Southeast Conference and led by a 12-member steering committee. The Conference was formed in 1958 with the goal of establishing the Alaska Marine Highway System, and today, the marine highway system extends across 3,500 miles of scenic coastline and provides service to over 30 communities. But due to many factors, and exacerbated by the state’s fiscal crisis, the Alaska Marine Highway System is at a critical juncture and at risk of failure. Once again, Southeast Conference is leading the effort to “re-create” the ferry system into an organization that can continue to provide vital transportation services to the many user groups and industries that rely on it daily.

After months of information gathering and deliberations, the Alaska Marine Highway (AMH) Reshaping Work Group, formed following Governor Dunleavy’s Administrative Order No. 313, has released a final report of findings and recommendations regarding the future financing, governance, and service levels of the AMHS. The final report and all associated documents can be found here(link is external). Areas addressed by the report’s recommendations are:

  • Strengthening AMHS Governance
  • Strengthening Governance Support
  • Improving System Reliability
  • Stabilizing Budget Planning
  • Reducing System Costs
  • Renegotiation of Marine Union Labor Agreements
  • Increasing System Revenue
  • Leveraging Road Infrastructure
  • “I thank the members of the AMHS work group for their dedication and commitment to the future of the Alaska Marine Highway System,” said Governor Dunleavy. “I am confident that this report will assist in forging a more reliable and efficient marine highway system to serve coastal Alaska for years to come.”

Going forward, as the budgeting process unfolds in the coming months, DOT&PF will be vetting the recommendations and developing a plan that integrates with the Governor’s proposed budget, to be released in mid-December 2020. A DOT&PF presentation outlining the proposed implementation of that plan will be shared with the legislature and the public after the 32nd legislature convenes.

“The AMHS needs to provide Alaska coastal communities with reliable ferry service, while achieving efficiencies that help sustain the system for the long-term,” stated Admiral Tom Barrett, chair of the Work Group. “The reshaping work group has offered recommendations we believe can advance both of these goals and improve the system for the benefit of all Alaskans.”

The members of the Working Group included:

  • Admiral Tom Barrett (Public – Chair)
  • John Torgerson (Public)
  • Wanetta Ayers (Public)
  • Lee Ryan (Aviation)
  • Robert Venables (Marine Transportation Advisory Board – MTAB)
  • Tony Johansen (Roads & Highways)
  • Ben Goldrich (Labor)
  • Senator Bert Stedman
  • Representative Louise Stutes

AMHS is an extension of the national highway system, linking coastal Alaska communities. Due to shortfalls in oil revenues in recent years, programs such as AMHS, which rely on an annual state subsidy, necessitate cost containments and efficiencies. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted ridership and reduced revenues in 2020.

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities oversees 237 airports, 10 ferries serving 35 communities, more than 5,600 miles of highway and 776 public facilities throughout the state of Alaska. The mission of the department is to “Keep Alaska Moving through service and infrastructure.”


  • Ketchikan Gateway Borough


  • City & Borough of Juneau
  • City of Ketchikan
  • City of Valdez
  • First Bank
  • Haines Borough 
  • State of Alaska


  • Alaska Committee
  • City and Borough of Sitka
  • Lynden Inc.


  • City of Kodiak
  • Ketchikan Marine Industry Council
  • Municipality of Skagway
  • Prince William Sound Economic Development District
  • Vigor, Ketchikan Alaska


  • Central Council Tlingit Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska
  • City and Borough of Wrangell
  • City of Cordova
  • City of Craig
  • City of Pelican
  • City of Thorne Bay
  • City of Unalaska
  • Cordova Chamber
  • Greater Sitka Chamber
  • Hyder Community Association
  • Huna Totem
  • Inter-Island Ferry Authority
  • Madison Lumber & Hardware
  • Marine Engineers
  • Masters Mates and Pilots Union
  • Petersburg Chamber of Commerce
  • Petersburg Economic Development Council
  • Sitka Economic Development Association
  • Sitka Tribe of Alaska
  • SouthWest Alaska Municipal Conference (SWAMC)
  • The Landing Plus Hotel
  • Travel Juneau
  • Wrangell Convention and Visitors Bureau