Ferries get boost in transportation budget

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Democratic legislators succeed in efforts on new boat, Colman Dock, Kingston

OLYMPIA – The transportation budget approved late Thursday night by the Legislature buoys prospects for maintaining ferry service between Kitsap County ports and Seattle, thanks to the efforts of legislators from the 23rd District and other shoreline areas.

The budget, passed in the waning hours of the regular legislative session, includes $6.5 million to support issuing $130 million in bonds to finance a second, new 144-car ferry in the ferry system’s boat-building program. That will help stabilize operations systemwide and reduce service interruptions.

The 23rd District delegation — Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and Reps. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island — also collaborated on other ferry-related provisions that have been included in the transportation budget (ESHB 2190):

  • An authorization to the state Department of Transportation to draw on its store of “toll credits,” which are granted by the federal government for bridge, ferry and other transportation tolls collected statewide, and allocate $163,000 worth of them to the Port of Kingston, which in turn can use them as its required match for federal grants for developing passenger-only ferry service.
  •  A directive to the state ferry system to permit passenger-only service at the Colman Dock in Seattle.

“Ferry funding seems like a never-ending battle, and this session saw some important victories,” Appleton said. “Car ferries, foot ferries, safe and reliable service — these are all priorities for those of us who live or work on the Kitsap Peninsula or on Bainbridge, and this bipartisan transportation budget addressed them all.  Individually and as a team, the 23rd District delegation has kept the pressure on, and I’m pleased with the results, for now.

“But there’s more to do, and we’re already working on next year,” Appleton said.

“This was a win for those of us who have been fighting for the sustainability of the ferry system, which is key to the economic vitality of the West Sound region,” Rolfes said.  “A lot of the momentum came from the Ferry Community Partnership, a cohesive group of ferry riders, community leaders, and business owners from all over Puget Sound, who volunteered their time to lobby our colleagues and testify at public hearings.”

And Hansen said, “We won some important victories for the ferries this session, including support for ferry operations and the Kingston passenger-only ferry and funds for a second mid-sized ferry. But this is only a start.  The ferry system still has significant unmet needs, and we’ll keep fighting for its future.”

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