Rep. Hansen sponsors amendment to keep ferry service intact through 2015

Led by Rep. Drew Hansen, lawmakers in the state House of Representatives put down a marker Monday on maintaining ferry service at its existing level through 2015.

Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, sponsored an amendment to the 2012 transportation budget that declared the House's intent to keep ferry service intact through the 2013-15 budget cycle.

The transportation budget, Substitute House Bill 2190, passed on a 82-16 vote.

"We wanted it to be very clear that the Legislature intended to maintain ferry service at the current levels throughout the 2015 Legislative Session," Hansen said.

"We didn't want there to be any confusion or unclarity," he said.

The amendment was modeled after a similar amendment proposed by Hansen's fellow 23rd District lawmaker in the Senate, Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island.

The Bainbridge Island-Seattle route is one of the busiest in the system — second only to the Mukilteo-Clinton run — and carried 1.4 million riders and more than 470,000 vehicles in the last quarter. And though no changes to the Bainbridge route are anticipated in Washington State Ferries' long-range plan, completed in 2009, WSF still needs to resolve its ongoing financial crisis. The system faces a $3.1 billion gap in capital funding though 2030, according to WSF's long-range plan.

Hansen said the Legislature made a "down payment" on ferry funding with a bill that was passed in the House last week, and the Senate a few weeks earlier, that included money toward a new 144-car ferry.

"A group of us fought very, very hard to make sure the fee bill included funding for a second 144-car boat.

"That's a very important start, but it's only a start," Hansen said.

"Even with that bill we will still have unmet funding needs for the ferries beginning after the 2015 Legislative Session that we still need to work on and we still need to fight for," he added.

Other amendments sponsored by Hansen, also based on amendments offered by Rolfes in the Senate - were also included in the House-passed transportation budget.

They included a directive to the state ferry system to permit passenger-only service at the Colman Dock in Seattle; and an authorization for the state Department of Transportation to allocate $163,000 worth of “toll credits” granted by the federal government (for bridge, ferry and other transportation tolls) to the Port of Kingston, which in turn can use them as the port's required match for federal grants for developing passenger-only ferry service.

The provisions were supported by 23rd District Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, and four other House members from districts served by ferries.


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