Ferry summit set next Friday

Some 130 regional leaders will converge in Bremerton.

Leaders from across Puget Sound and the state will converge on Bremerton next Friday, seeking solutions to problems faced by Washington State Ferries.

The Puget Sound Leadership Ferry Summit will draw 130 regional leaders to the Norm Dicks Government Center.

“This summit is a first step in attempting to build a better partnership and a better understanding around Puget Sound about the very complicated issues that we are dealing with,” said state Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island), among those who spearheaded the summit. “One main goal is to get our communities more actively engaged in the discussions. I’m hopeful that proposals to do just that will come out of the discussions.”

State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) agreed that the summit is an important step.

“It is important to get people together to discuss the issues, and look for solutions,” Appleton said. “At the end of the meeting, I will be hoping that everyone has a better idea of what is facing the ferry system and its commuters.”

This past year, the state Legislature passed a ferry reform bill that capped fare increases and slowed terminal expansion plans until WSF’s financial house is in order.

“It requires a fresh look at capital projects, ridership trends, fare pricing policies, and whether there are more efficient ways to use existing capacity,” Rolfes said. “Capital needs were driving up fares with no end in sight, and the legislation basically said, ‘enough is enough.’”

Among the issues to be discussed, Rolfes said, are “sustainability of the current operations, affordability of the fares and the ability to safely and efficiently accommodate the region’s transportation growth.”

“For many parts of the Puget Sound region, the ferries are a lifeline for their economies,” she said. “Heretofore, the discussion about ferries has been mostly happening in Olympia, and it’s time to move those discussions out of Olympia.”

The all-day session begins at 8 a.m. in the government center in downtown Bremerton.

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