Things that go ‘choo choo’ getting money; the fog-horned ferries? Not so much

There seems to be plenty of money out there for trains, but not so much for ferries.

The governor announced last week that Washington state will get $590 million in federal stimulus money to improve the Amtrak Cascades corridor between Seattle and Portland. Two round trips will be added between the cities, for a total of six by 2017. They’ll be doing a lot of projects to make the route faster and safer, directly or indirectly putting 6,000 people to work.

That should keep ridership growing. It jumped 10 percent from 2009 to 2010, and has increased from 100,000 to 840,000 since service began in 1994. The state has invested $331 million in passenger rail service during that time.

Washington got an extra $161.5 million in stimulus funds after Wisconsin and Ohio declined the money. Florida has indicated it will reject $2.4 billion in high-speed-rail stimulus funding, and Washington would like to get its hands on some of that, too. Don’t ask me why those other states are turning down money. Must come with strings attached. I’ll check into it later. But it’s sure nice for Washington. It isn’t there yet, but the train is getting to be a good alternative to driving I-5.

I don’t get why there’s so much money available for the trains, though, and not for ferries. It’s looking like ferry riders will have their fares raised 7.5 percent this year, possibly have to pay an extra quarter on every ticket to help build a new boat, and get hit with a fuel surcharge if diesel prices go nuts as it looks like they might. On top of all that, they’re threatened with reducing service and the size of boats.

The governor is already proposing to shift $44 million from highway funds to the ferries, for the last time, which is nice of her, but for another $44 million you could probably avoid all of the stuff above.

3 thoughts on “Things that go ‘choo choo’ getting money; the fog-horned ferries? Not so much

  1. Florida’s AMTRAK line along the Gulf Coast has been inactive since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which wrecked some stations. At one time, you could take AMTRAK from Seattle to Orlando, but now you must get off in New Orleans (if you take the southern route) or in Jacksonville. If you are trying to avoid the TSA groping, then you rent a car or take the bus. If TSA is not an issue, there are lots of flights from JAX or from MSY to Orlando or anywhere along the Florida Gulf Coast.

    Washington State should definitely try to get the money that Florida is leaving on the table.

  2. Ed, it would have been nice for you to compare the Amtrak ridership with the ferry ridership.

    The state ferry system carries about 23 million passengers and about 10 million vehicles per year. http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/pdf/wsflargest.pdf

    Compare that to what you said in your article – 840 thousand passengers on Amtrak! (Plus I imagine freight trains use the same tracks?)

    What a farce! All those millions spent for Amtrak for 840 thousand passengers?

  3. I too love to ride the ferries to and from Seattle for a variety of reasons and liked being able to go and come when you liked. That just isn’t possible anymore and probably won’t be in the future. I just can’t understand our governor being so short sighted to cut our service and toss all those cars onto Highway 16 and I-5 at a time when they are already overloaded.
    Now, now my big problem is,that with all this money that may be going to trains,why is my motorhome being charged a $75 “weight based fee” that is going to railroad improvement.Excuse me? but I’m not driving my motorhome on any rail tracks and don’t intend too except for crossing the ones on the way to the beach..I don’t mind them charging that weight fee if it’s going to highway improvements,but railroad improvements??No way,make the railroads pay for their own rails,they’re the ones making horrendous profits off of their freight trains.I can’t even find anyone to explain this to me at the state level.

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