News Roundup -- Federal ferry funding hiked

Federal ferry funding hiked

A federal transportation bill approved last week essentially doubles the funding allocated to Washington State Ferries, paving the way for new ferry construction, terminal renovation and security improvements.

President George W. Bush is expected to sign the $285 million bill into law. Of this, approximately $65 million will directly benefit the WSF system.

The package includes $2.5 million in funding for a new Bainbridge Island multimodal terminal. This project will redevelop the current ferry terminal site, including construction of a transit deck, overhead loading facility, terminal building, a third slip and access improvements.

“This reflects a new era for water transport in the region,” Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman said Tuesday, at a press event that included U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and county transportation officials. “We’ve been doing pretty much the same thing with water transportation for many years. But this grant will allow us to accomplish a tremendous amount.”

Bozeman called Puget Sound “a completely unique body of water” with its connection to several major municipal areas. He said the new funding would allow the region to reach its transportation potential.

Murray (D-Wash.), the bill’s primary sponsor, said that due to the nature of transportation funding, the area may not see the effects of this project for some years to come.

But Murray said that growth projections forecast that ferry use will increase dramatically over the next six years. For WSF, this brings an estimated annual load of 30 million passengers and 13 million vehicles by 2009.

“A viable ferry system supports growth,” Murray said. “But it represents more than an economic boost. The ferry is critical to our region and is a part of our cultural identity.”

Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen hailed the federal support for local needs.

“It’s great that the federal government has made this long-term commitment,” Endresen said. “And that they are giving the ferries as much attention as a highway.”

– Charlie Bermant

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