A $64 million 'airstrip to nowhere' in the Aleutians?

September 27, 2011 

The village of Akutan in the Aleutian Islands is getting a new $64 million airstrip, but right now, no one is certain how villagers and seasonal workers will get to it. That's because it's being built on an uninhabited island six miles away, across a strait exposed to the stormy Bering Sea, reports Alaska Dispatch. The original plan called for use of a hovercraft, but the Aleutians East Borough is reconsidering because of problems using a similar hovercraft to get King Cove residents to an airport in Cold Bay. One solution being considered for Akutan: a helicopter shuttle.

Fewer than 100 people live year-round in Akutan, but the Trident Seafoods plant there boosts the seasonal population to more than 1,000. PenAir is hoping to use the new airstrip to fly more modern planes to Akutan, replacing the aging workhorse Grumman Gooses that usually make the trip from Dutch Harbor. From Alaska Dispatch:

If they don't find a fix by next summer, they could have a $64 million airstrip in the middle of nowhere. ...

In a recent speech urging Congress to pass a jobs bill, President Obama said, "No more earmarks. No more boondoggles. No more bridges to nowhere," a reference to that famed proposed bridge between Ketchikan and the nearby Gravina Island -- population 50 -- that became a popular symbol for government waste.

With uncertainty swirling around what will connect the new runway to the community it's supposed to serve, and how much the connection could cost, the lonely runway on a wild island in the middle of the Aleutians might find itself newly infamous.

Read more at Alaska Dispatch.

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