Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Transportation was a key topic at the second day of the Southeast Conference mid-session summit at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday.
ADOT Commissioner John MacKinnon was the keynote speaker on the subject. He told attendees that multiple uses of the land and recreation opportunities go together.
"We have one of the prime cruise ship destination in the state, and tourism and resource development go very well together," MacKinnon said. "Multiple use means multiple use. It means using the resources to help the economy."
He also said the 239 airports in Alaska, which his department oversees, serve Alaskans in ways not seen elsewhere in the country.
"So many of our airports are in rural communities, and no other state has a system like us," he said. "We also have 10 ferries and more than 30 ports of call. We also oversee 776 buildings, including 25 more we'll be getting after the new budget comes out."
ADOT employs 3,300 workers and MacKinnon said his FY 19 budget is about $600 million.
MacKinnon served for more than a decade on the Juneau Assembly and spent time on the planning commission as well. He served governors Frank Murkowski and Sarah Palin as deputy commissioner. He also worked previously with Associated General Contractors in Anchorage.
"DOT gave me a statewide experience that helped me understand the diversity in the state and helped me over the last 11 years in Anchorage," MacKinnon said. "It's amazing what we can harness in this state. A great example was during the recent earthquake. It shows you what Alaskans can do in a crunch ... and what you can do when you don't need permits."
On the budget, MacKinnon said he couldn't say much, but he did offer one insight.
"There will be no further cuts in the transportation infrastructure or maintenance and operations," MacKinnon said. "I'm happy to tell you that, even though I can't say much more than that. We want predictability and a sustained level of service."
MacKinnon said hard choices have to made on the future budget.
"It's the governor's job to send a balanced budget and then the legislature's job to go farther," MacKinnon said. "It's going to force the legislature and Alaskans to find a collective solution to pay for the level of government they want."