The Gordian Knot is one of the many legends surrounding Alexander the Great. It’s a story a lot like the Sword in the Stone. In ancient Phrygia, there was a legend that whoever could untie an infamously complicated knot between a chariot and its yoke would become the next king of Phrygia. Alexander the Great took one look at the knot and cut it in half with his sword, solving the riddle at a stroke.
Sometimes, the best solutions involve cutting out the problem.
Alaska and Canada are involved in one such problem right now. The Alaska Marine Highway wants to build a new ferry terminal in Prince Rupert, British Columbia. The construction will be partially funded with federal money, which means a few strings are attached. One of those strings is a “buy American” clause. The steel and materials used in the project must be bought from an American source.
Naturally, Canadians aren’t happy with this and have threatened consequences if the Marine Highway goes forward with the project anyway.
Gov. Bill Walker could simply apply for an exemption from the “buy American” clause, but we think there’s a better solution. It involves cutting.
The state of Alaska is facing a $3.5 billion revenue shortfall. It’s going to be looking for budget cuts. One of those cuts should be Prince Rupert.
We’re not just talking about the new ferry terminal. We’re talking about cutting Prince Rupert as a stop on the Alaska Marine Highway.
Cutting Prince Rupert would slice money from the Marine Highway’s budget, preserving funding elsewhere. The Marine Highway’s own traffic figures make the case for this cut.
Since 2004, overall passenger and car traffic has risen in Southeast Alaska. In 2004, Marine Highway ferries embarked more than 240,000 passengers in Southeast. Included in that figure were 14,191 passengers from Prince Rupert.
In 2013, the Marine Highway carried 254,437 passengers in Southeast Alaska. Fewer than 8,000 of them were picked up in Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert had about as many passenger embarkations as Petersburg, in fact.
We would prefer no cuts to the Marine Highway budget, but that isn’t an option. The state’s budget cap is too wide to be bridged unless every department pitches in. Cutting service to Prince Rupert does not do a disservice to any Alaskans. Service to the Lower 48 will still be available through Bellingham. Prince Rupert does not offer anything that cannot be obtained through another port.
As the state cuts its budget, we expect the Alaska Marine Highway to bear its share. If it comes down to a choice between Petersburg and Prince Rupert, we know which option we prefer.
— Juneau Empire, Jan. 22