Alaskan Island Village Boasts New Planeless Airport and Boatless Harbor. Guess Who Paid?


The Aleutian Island village of Akutan, Alaska (pop. 75) has garnered some national attention for its airport, a facility that cost $75.5 million and is accessible only by hovercraft. Which is badass, but not practical. About three-quarters of the cost of the airport was covered by federal funds.

To be fair, the area is home to a seafood processing plant that attracts 1,000 seasonal workers. But after Peninsula Airways canceled the only scheduled air or mail service last month there are no regular flights, though occasional charter flights do come in and out. Renovations made it impossible for the aircraft that previously served the island, a WWII-era amphibious plane, to take off.

Not satisfied with just one major piece of useless transportation infrastructure, however, Akutan now boasts a non-functioning port as well:

For now, the harbor is mostly just a big hole in the ground. While the construction team has finished its work, there's still no electricity, no running water, and no floats. There's also no road from the village, which is two miles away, so the only way to access the boat harbor is by boat. That means the harbor is cut off from the village's grocery store, post office and fuel dock. Steve Boardman is head of the Army Corps of Engineers' civil projects division. He says transportation situation is unusual.

"Yes. It's not normal. And it has prevented the construction of harbors in the past, when that supporting infrastructure is not there."

Raise your hand if you're surprised by this piece of the puzzle:

Boardman adds that it helped that the project was 'shovel-ready' when $29 million of federal stimulus money became available in 2009.

A road to the port, which "is being contemplated," would require blasting through the cliffs around the Akutan Bay, at a cost of about $11 million per mile.

And in case you're wondering where Akutan is, it's here: