No one comes to Washington to drive I-5

Here’s the first version of the story from the ferry rally.

OLYMPIA

Ferry supporters made their case on the steps of the capitol Wednesday and reminded themselves they’d been there before.

Speakers made several references to the rally that happened nine years ago, almost to the day, in which 300 people carried signs and made a pitch for stable ferry funding.

They hope to get more out of the rally this time and they brought a plan they believe can help. State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, said it’s important these same people not have to come back in another nine years saying, “We waved signs and we got nothing. That’s not acceptable this time.”

To overcome what they see as a lack of resolution from the last time, Wednesday’s group brought with them a proposal for how to fund ferries into the future and save money.

Speakers, including business leaders and several Kitsap legislators, two local mayors and a county commissioner, made the case that ferries are vital economically to both regions and repeated the constitutionally supported mantra that ferries are part of the state’s highway system.

State Rep. Jan Angel, R-South Kitsap, said she introduced a bill to change the name of the ferry system to the Washington State Marine Highway system.

Several speakers made reference to the ferry system being a big tourist draw. “I’ve never met anyone who said they came to Washington state because they wanted to drive on I-5,” said said state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island.

The crowd was about half the size as the one nine years ago and at least half of the people were from Vashon Island, many of whom arrived on two chartered buses.

14 thoughts on “No one comes to Washington to drive I-5

  1. “State Rep. Jan Angel, R-South Kitsap, said she introduced a bill to change the name of the ferry system to the Washington State Marine Highway system.”

    Angel’s idea is terrific! The ferry system is as vital to our transportation as asphalt is to a paved roadway.

    “… “I’ve never met anyone who said they came to Washington state because they wanted to drive on I-5,” said said state Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-San Juan Island.”

    Smart guy… funny too!
    Sharon O’Hara

  2. “Angel’s idea is terrific!”

    You’re kidding, right?

    I’m sure this was a great applause line at a rally, but the pathetic truth is that Jan Angel is serious. She really thinks her job as our Rep. in Olympia is renamning things instead of getting things done!

    Kevin Ranker had a great punch line too, but at least he’s backing it up with something a little more substantial. He’s sponsoring legislation that actually gets things done for the people he represents, as are almost all of the legislators who spoke at the rally, including locals like Christine Rolfes and Larry Seaquest.

    Meanwhile, Jan Angel has only sponsored 4 bills all session – and 3 of them do nothing but change the names of things!

    HJM 4011 is “Requesting that the new Tacoma Narrows bridge be named the Bob Oke bridge,” a re-tread of an idea that went nowhere last year.

    HB 1835 is titled “Concerning the use of respectful language in state statutes.” It changes “mentally retarded” to “intellectually disabled” in state laws.

    And now her answer to fix our troubled ferry system is to sponsor HB 2230 to “Rename the Washington state ferries the Washington state marine highway system.”

    This is beyond pathetic!

    We have real problems that require real solutions – not slogans and ‘feel good’ legislation.

    Where’s a bill to save money, or raise revenue, or do anything that actually helps?

    Where’s the beef?

  3. The “constitutionally supported mantra that ferries are part of the state’s highway system” is not a mantra — it’s a myth.

    In your article in today’s paper, you state this myth in another way: “They also emphasized that ferries are part of the state highway system, a fact that is enshrined in the state Constitution.”

    “Enshrined” is a nice choice of wording for the perpetuation of a myth. 😉

    Article II, section 40 of the state constitution limits the use of motor vehicle fuel tax and motor vehicle license fee revenues “exclusively” to spending on “highway purposes” — which can be ferries if those ferries are part of a state, county, or city highway, road, or street.

    The constitution doesn’t say ferries are part of the highway system. It says they can be considered to be a “highway purpose” for which the spending of the fuel tax and license fee revenues is allowed if they are found to be a part of a highway, road or street.

    In other words, the legislature has to identify which ferries are in fact part of a state highway, county road or city street before the legislature can authorize the use of that revenue for their operation.

    This section of the state constitution doesn’t impose any obligation to spend on any particular highway, road, street, ferry, or anything else. It instead puts a limit on the purposes for which the revenue can be used.

    People who say they want “stable” or “sustainable” funding (when they really mean “more” but are of course never brave enough to speak plain English) need to explain why their particular “highway purpose” deserves even more of the revenue from the fuel tax and license fees.

    Claiming that the constitution gives them some special status won’t work, because it isn’t true.

    ARTICLE II, SECTION 40 HIGHWAY FUNDS. All fees collected by the State of Washington as license fees for motor vehicles and all excise taxes collected by the State of Washington on the sale, distribution or use of motor vehicle fuel and all other state revenue intended to be used for highway purposes, shall be paid into the state treasury and placed in a special fund to be used exclusively for highway purposes. Such highway purposes shall be construed to include the following:
    +++
    (b) The construction, reconstruction, maintenance, repair, and betterment of public highways, county roads, bridges and city streets; including the cost and expense of (1) acquisition of rights-of-way, (2) installing, maintaining and operating traffic signs and signal lights, (3) policing by the state of public highways, (4) operation of movable span bridges, (5) operation of ferries which are a part of any public highway, county road, or city street;

  4. http://www.atg.wa.gov/opinion.aspx?section=topic&id=10022

    That any ferry operated as a part of such a transportation system would in fact be “part of any public highway” is clear from cases decided by our court and by the federal courts. U.S. v. Puget Sound Nav. Co., 24 F. Supp. 431; State ex rel. Washington Nav. Co. v. Pierce County, 184 Wash. 414; andState ex rel. King County v. Murrow, 199 Wash. 685.

    U.S. v. Puget Sound Nav. Co., 24 F.Supp. 431, 432 (D.C. Wash. 1938). In general, “a ferry is a continuation of the highway from one side of the water over which it passes to the other, and exists for the transportation of passengers or travelers with their vehicles and such property as they may have with them.”

  5. And your point is?

    It is obvious that the AG opinion you cite says what I said: the ferries are a “highway purpose” on which the fuel tax revenue can be spent when in fact they are part of a highway, road or street.

    The constitution doesn’t say what IS part of a highway, road or street. That depends on the facts.

    Therefore the constitution gives no special status for ferries. Nothing is “enshrined” in the constitution that supports the argument that ferries should get any particular amount of the available funding.

    Ferries already get a disproportionate share of the fuel tax revenue, and claiming that the constitution somehow requires even more (that is, “stable” or “sustainable” for those who can’t bring themselves to say “more” when they mean “more”) is false.

  6. Bob, I had a fairly long response written that I was crafting that needed editing and more time than I can devote to it.

    On the “constitutionally supported” argument, I still think that’s a valid description, but I’m going to ask for a credible third opinion.

    Even if I am correct, though, your argument that it doesn’t mean the state has to pay to keep up any single part of the highway system is correct. The state could give up on Highway 16 if it wanted.

    As for “more” versus “stable,” I think you’re generally right, though I would amend it to say “more stable,” more in the sense of quantity, not quality. To just say “more” could imply one-time funding, which I’m sure ferry supporters wouldn’t turn down in a pinch, but isn’t the ultimate goal.

  7. While you’re searching for another opinion, consider this ferry route:
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=47.60.282

    The state constitution was amended in 1944 to limit the use of motor vehicle fuel tax and vehicle license fee revenues “exclusively” to “highway purposes,” and included within the definition of “highway purposes” the operation of ferry routes which are part of a highway, road or street.

    Almost thirty years later, the ferry route from Port Townsend to Keystone became a part of State Route 20.

    If ferries were “enshrined” in the constitution as “highways” in 1944, why would it take almost thirty years to take over that route?

    Until the legislature decided to include that ferry run as part of State Route 20, it was not considered to be in fact a part of any public highway.

    The constitution didn’t require this legislative act — it authorized the use of the fuel tax and license fee revenue to support the ferry operations if the legislature found that the route ought to be part of a public highway.

    And, the constitution doesn’t say anything about the level of support the ferries ought to receive.

    So, it is not at all persuasive to point to a constitutional provision that authorizes the use of a certain source of revenue when you’re trying to get more/stable/sustainable public funding for ferries.

    The constitution says the legislature may provide the funding from that source, but it doesn’t say the legislature must provide any particular level of funding.

  8. http://www.faqs.org/rulings/rulings2007HQH011823.html

    Ferries have been defined as, “…a continuous line of road” leading from one side of the water to another. Canadian Pac. Ry. Co. v. U.S., 73 F.2d 831, 832; (9th Cir. 1934); see also U.S. v. Puget Sound Nav. Co., 24 F.Supp. 431, 432 (D.C. Wash. 1938). In general, “a ferry is a continuation of the highway from one side of the water over which it passes to the other, and exists for the transportation of passengers or travelers with their vehicles and such property as they may have with them.” 35 AM. JUR. 2d Ferries § 1 (2001). Further, a “‘ferry’ is a substitute for a bridge where a bridge is impracticable, and its end and use are the same…as a link in the highway system…and does not include the transportation of goods, wares and merchandise by themselves.” U.S. v. Puget Sound Nav. Co., 107 F.2d 73, cert. denied 60 S.Ct. 608 (1939).

    This focus on a ferry as an extension of a highway appears in other definitions, such as “whether a boat is a ‘ferry’ and comprises a continuous part of the road or highway depends on length of run, type of ship.” BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY 620 (6th ed. 1990) (citing Alaska S.S. Co. v. Federal Maritime Comm’n, 399 F.2d 623, 628 (9th Cir. 1968). In addition, a ferry is defined as “a vessel designed to carry passengers and/or vehicles, and which…runs on a regular schedule.” THE OXFORD COMPANION TO SHIPS AND THE SEA 299 (2nd ed. 2005).

    http://www.atg.wa.gov/opinion.aspx?section=archive&id=7968

    “We think there can be no question but that . . . the ferries herein are a part of appellant’s county road system . . .” State ex rel. King County v. Murrow, 199 Wash. 685, 691, 93 P. (2d) 304 (1939).

    http://www.atg.wa.gov/opinion.aspx?section=archive&id=7968

    The conclusion seems inescapable that the operation of a county ferry is a part of the county road system, and, as such, subject to the same statutory requirements with regard to vacation thereof as are other county roads. The reference in RCW 36.87.010, to “a [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] county road or any part thereof” (emphasis added) fortifies this conclusion in that even if a ferry were not deemed a “road” in some technical sense, the courts have consistently treated public ferries as integral parts of road systems. The policy of allowing the public a voice at a hearing applies with equal force where the decision is to vacate ferry service as where it is to vacate some other county road.

    http://www.atg.wa.gov/opinion.aspx?section=topic&id=10022

    Our court, in theMurrow case, was called upon to construe what is now RCW 36.82.070, and which provides in part that “Any money paid to any county from the motor vehicle fund may be used for the construction, alteration, repair, improvement, or maintenance of county roads and bridges thereon . . . and for ferries, . . .” The court said, on page 691:

    “We think it is almost inescapable that the legislature, . . . considered public ferries, operated or maintained by a county, a part of the county road system, and we think it follows as a reasonable conclusion that it was the intention of the legislature to make the words ‘for the construction, alteration, repair, improvement, or maintenance’ apply to such ferries, as a part of the county road system. . . .”

    We know of no constitutional or statutory provision which would prevent the expenditure of money from the motor vehicle fund to subsidize the operation of the proposed Puget Sound transportation system, if the legislative and executive branches of the state government determine that such an expenditure is desirable, and if the expenditure is made pursuant to a proper appropriation by the legislature.

  9. Nice job of copy-and-paste. Now you’re all set to argue with someone who claims that state ferries aren’t part of the state highway system, if you can find someone making that argument. But what can you say to someone who says ferries are already getting a disproportionately high share of the available tax revenue?

  10. Bob – you’re welcome. Yours are equally informative when posted to contribute to additional data towards increased knowledge and informed discussion.

    Steven – you are correct that ferries are deemed “part of any public highway” per cases decided by the courts. When Bob took issue with your statement “…the constitutionally supported mantra that ferries are part of the state’s highway system.”, his argument that this exact phraseology must exist in the Constitution was incomplete. His comment that Article II, section 40 applies to ferries “if those ferries are part of a state, county, or city highway, road, or street.” was as well.

    Your search for opinions pursuant to cases on this matter was logically intact, since the interpretation of Constitutions and resulting precedents are part and parcel of the legal understanding of what it means to be ‘constitutionally supported.’ Put another way, Bob’s use of “if” runs counter to Court decisions which interpret Article II, section 40(5) to affirmatively apply to ferries as a part of a county’s road and/or highway system.

  11. I asked the AG’s office if we were wrong in our statements about the ferries being part of the highway system. Here’s the response I received from Bryce Brown:

    Mr. Gardner,

    I am Chief Counsel for the Washington State Department of Transportation and am responding to your email of February 19, 2009 to the Office of the Attorney General. In your email, you request clarification as to whether “… the Washington State Constitution agrees that ferries are part of the state highway system.”

    Article II § 40 (18th Amendment of the Washington State Constitution) reads:

    “Such highway purposes shall be construed to include the following:

    (a)(5) operation of ferries which are a part of any public highway, county road, or city street.”

    I hope this answer has been of assistance to you.

  12. How sweet. You can now continue with the “mantra” as though there is some constitutional requirement for a certain level of funding. Meanwhile, people in ferry-dependent communities will continue to suffer from a lack of understanding of the actual meaning and effect of that part of the constitution. Even better, your readers will continue to think they aren’t getting their fair share of tax revenue for ferries, even though Mr. Moseley made it very clear in his interview with the editorial board that ferries get far more tax revenue on a “mileage and passenger — people using the highway” basis. Listen to him — at 32 min., 15 seconds into the recording. Play it back several times. Then go back to your “mantra.”

  13. How did this go from constitutionally supported to constitutionally required?

    If people in ferry-dependent communities want to understand meaning and application, all they need to do is research the law and read the opinions from relevant cases.

    Another cut and paste job, this regarding SEED:

    “The point shouldn’t be whether there is an “increase.” The point should be whether the taxes we pay are put to good use. Continuing to pay roughly the same amount, even though there is no increase, isn’t good unless the revenue goes to a good purpose.”

    Altered version with similar point regarding ferries:

    The point shouldn’t be whether there is disproportionate share of tax revenue for ferries. The point should be whether the revenue is put to good use. Continuing to pay roughly the same amount or more isn’t good unless the revenue goes to a good purpose.

    So the question for people in ferry-dependent communities should be whether revenue towards maintaining or increasing ferry service is a good purpose. If they believe it is, what are they going to dotowards achieving this goal beyond mental masturbation?

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