Alaskan village building $76 million airport – for 100 people

The Alaskan village of Akutan is home to 100 permanent residents and 900 seasonal workers. Like many Alaskan communities, Akutan makes its money off seafood production. At the moment, the village is only reachable by a 70 year old sea plane – and they are quickly running out of parts for it.

The solution is a new airport. The facility will transport people on the 20 minute flight to the town of Unalaska where they can connect to other flights. Like most Alaskan transportation services – this route is extremely heavily subsidized.

The new airport will cost a whopping $76 million. The sea plane currently carries 5500 people annually, so some simple math shows that in the first ten years of operation, the tax payers are forking over $1350 for every single passenger using the facility. This doesn’t even include any additional costs of operating the airport (another $500,000 each year).

Larry Cotter, the chief executive of the Aleutian Pribilof Island Community Development Association says the following about the airport:

“Some people are probably positing, ‘Oh, it’s another Bridge to Nowhere, except it’s an airport to nowhere. Anybody who says that is really ignorant.”

Well, call me ignorant, but I don’t understand why a village of 100 permanent residents needs a $76 million airport. If the current sea plane is falling apart, wouldn’t the best solution be a new sea plane? Alaska has 256 airports, and even the smallest of them may only serve 40 people – costing millions to build and maintain.

Then again, when you read that Chicago’s O’Hare is spending $6.6 billion on its renovation plan, $76 million seems like a bargain.%Gallery-76818%

Before you leave, be sure to check out Episode 3 of Gadling’s Travel Talk TV! They’re in VEGAS, BABY!