Transportation secretary nixes pardon for Mat-Su ferry bill

Zaz Hollander
The ferry M/V Susitna conducts a beach landing on Bold Island southeast of Ketchikan during a test run for a potential buyer on July 13, 2014. During a visit to Wasilla on Thursday, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation brushed off the idea of giving the Matanuska-Susitna Borough a pass on more than $12.3 million in grant money spent on the ferry. Marc Van Dongen

WASILLA -- The U.S. Secretary of Transportation on Thursday brushed off the idea of giving the Matanuska-Susitna Borough a pass on more than $12.3 million in grant money spent on the ferry Susitna.

Secretary Anthony Foxx came to Wasilla with U.S. Sen. Mark Begich to meet  Mat-Su community members interested in transportation. Foxx and Begich heard requests from borough planners hoping for federal funding to expand dangerous highways like Knik-Goose Bay Road. They also heard from a volunteer transit group that hopes to consolidate four bus service areas by next year.

The Aug. 5 demand from the Federal Transit Administration that the borough pay back the ferry money within 30 days didn’t come up during a roundtable discussion. Borough officials met with Begich and Foxx privately afterward.

Foxx, asked before that brief meeting if he had the authority to waive the borough’s obligation, said, “No. We’re not.”

“I want to be clear, though,” he continued. “This is a project. It’s not the only thing that’s going on here.”

He praised the transit consolidation effort and said his department plans to provide technical assistance to the Mat-Su Transit Coalition, the group behind it.

Contact Zaz Hollander at zhollander@adn.com.