Washington’s Ferry Plan Calls for $400M

Friday, April 07, 2006
State ferry authorities say population and job growth in the central Puget Sound area are expected to reverse a recent trend and increase ridership on their vessels by 70 percent over the next 25 years and require spending an additional $400m on new boats. Now the state will have to figure out how to pay for that expansion. The number of fares sold on Washington State Ferries totaled just under 24 million last year, down about 10 percent from 2000, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer. But population growth in Kitsap and Island counties is expected to outstrip the number of new jobs, whereas in King County the reverse will be true. This means that more people will commute from the west side of the Sound to the Seattle area to work. Six new midsize boats, about the size of the current Issaquah-class ferry, would be needed to handle the increase. The boat purchases would be in addition to the $284m purchase of four other new 130-car vessels the system has already initiated to replace several 1920s-vintage ferries. New sources of money will need to be found for the other six boats. A ferry-financing task force, to be established by the Legislature and Gov. Christine Gregoire, will examine the system's current finances and consider other potential sources of cash. The task force may have recommendations by the next legislative session. After legislation passed by lawmakers last session, the ferry system plans to exit the foot-ferry business. It will sell its two high-speed ferries, at legislators' directive, and plans by 2009 to halt its Seattle-to-Vashon passenger-only service once King County or Kitsap County steps up to run it. The ferry system would continue running car ferries from Vashon to Fauntleroy but plans to run car ferry service from Southworth to Seattle by 2014. (Source: Seattle Post Intelligencer)
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