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.