Monthly Archives: February 2009

Consultants Turning Over Ferry Funding Study

The state Transportation Commission will receive a final report on a long-term ferry funding study from consultant Cambridge Systematics during its monthly meeting Tuesday and Wednesday in Olympia. That’s on the agenda for 9 a.m. Wednesday. The study is supposed to narrow down the best ways to pay for the ferry system. It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with.

Also of local interest is a Washington State Ferries work session at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. They’ll talk about changes in the revised long-range plan, discuss and agree on joint operational strategy recommendatons to the Legislature, get an overview of possible pricing strategies and review the 2009 fare adjustment schedule, milestones and process.

Also Tuesday, at 1:45 p.m., the commission will get a traffic and revenue update on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Outside the area, but still possibly interesting, will be the final report from the 520 bridge tolling implementation committee (9:10 Tuesday) and Alaskan Way Viaduct plans (1 p.m. Wednesday).

The meeting will be held at the Transportation Building, Commission Board Rood 1D2, 310 Maple Park Ave. SE.

The public comment period is at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Ferry Buyer Not Sure How He’ll Use Them

After reading a wire story a few days ago about the state getting another potential buyer for the steel-electric ferries after a company bailed on its plan to scrap them in Mexico, I tried to track down the new guy and see what he intends to do with four 80-year-old boats. I found him and called his home and work, but he didn’t get back to me.

This morning, however, the Tacoma paper had a story about it. He sounds like an interesting character. The gist of the story is he doesn’t know what he’d do with the boats. There are possibilities both on land and water. Read it here.

Some commenters from our wire story said they should turn them into floating casinos. What would you do with them?

Leftovers From Ferry Meeting

Ferry hodgepodge from Monday’s House Transportation Committee meeting in Olympia:

Jill Satran, the governor’s transportation policy advisor, explained to the committee how the governor arrived at her ferry budget, which is lean. She said the ferry system was scrubbed and it was hoped that would result in a fix. It didn’t.
“An easy fix was not on the horizon,” she said.
The governor decided it was time to face the ferry system’s realities and make its budget match its revenues. So she’s proposing to cut the Anacortes-Sidney route in September, freeing up one boat for use somewhere else (the system has no backup boat). She projects just one boat being built over the next six years, a 64-car vessel for Port Townsend-Keystone. She’d put the 34-car Hiyu on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route instead of the 48-car Rhododendron.
Satran said Gregoire asked ferries director David Moseley to “provide a very real call to action that Plan B is. Plan B is a way of living within our means. Nobody likes the ferry budget laid out in the governor’s budget, least of all the governor.”

Moseley and Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond then gave the committee a review of the revised long-range plan. A main change from the draft plan is breaking apart the Southworth-Vashon Island-Fauntleroy triangle, shuttling the little Hiyu between Southworth and Vashon, and running boats directly from Southworth and Vashon to Fauntleroy. Moseley called it the most troubled route in the system, and for a modest price the changes could be made to improve it.
Moseley said he couldn’t provide the sustainable strategy that Gregoire wanted.
“To do that, we would have had to close a state highway (ferries are part of the state highway system), and we didn’t feel we could do that,” he said.

Hammond said, “the governor wants to build boats in Washington, but she also wants competition.”

Moseley said the ferry system erred in its draft long-range plan by too specifically calling on local governments to help out with providing passenger ferries.
“We need to engage local governments in a much more robust discussion,” he said. “Passenger-only ferries are one example, but there may be other things as well.”

Transportation Committee chairwoman Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, said she doesn’t think there’s a ferry plan the committee could come up with to make everybody happy, but she hopes to come up with something that people feel more comfortable with than Plan B.

Bill Would Build Five Fast Passenger Ferries

When I was down in Olympia Monday to cover a public hearing on Christine Roles’ bill about opening up ferry bids nationally, another bill from Rep. Doug Ericksen was heard.
HB 1209 would provide $25 million to build five fast passenger-only ferries. I don’t understand it, but will be working today to try to figure it out. Ericksen took off yesterday before I could talk to him.
The bill would move $25 million from the Multimodal Transportation Account to the Passenger Ferry Account for the purpose of buying five passenger-only ferries. It would authorize the Department of Transportation to buy the ferries using a design-bid process. The bill says the ferries must be designed to speed through Rich Passage without creating much wake. They would also have to be able to be built within two years.
Why Ericksen, of Ferndale, is worried about Rich Passage I don’t know yet.
Right now there’s $4 million in the Passenger Ferry Account, from the sale of the Chinook and Snohomish. It’s been promised to the King County Ferry District.

The bill doesn’t say where the ferries would operate or who would run them.

“My goal is not to get bogged down on who would operate them but to get them built,” he said.

Ericksen also said he wanted to gain any money from the federal package. I don’t know how that jibes with transferring money between two state accounts.
“We have companies in Washington state that are shovel-ready to build right now,” he said. “We’ve done a lot of pre-work. We’ve made the federal investment already.”

I think he’s talking about the Rich Passage wake research that Kitsap Transit has done.
Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, Nels Sultan of Kingston Express and Tom Jones of Cascadia Center testified for the bill. Nobody spoke against it.
Angel said, “When we lost passenger-only service in Kitsap we lost a lot. We can fill ’em up and I know they can be run cost-effectively.”
Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, the committee chairwoman, asked Angel if the county will pick up the service.
“No, we don’t have the money to do that,” Angel said. “It’s an unfunded state mandate.”
Another man, Andy Peters, testified and said $25 million might not be enough to fill the need. He also suggested removing the requirements that the boats be fast and be able to operate in Rich Passage because other communities want boats and don’t have those concerns.