Murray Upset About Ferry Stimulus Funds

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood rode on a ferry from Seattle to Bremerton last week with Congressman Norm Dicks. They might have even been on the rusty Hyak, on the way to the opening ceremony of the tunnel. Both spoke, saying how much they respect and admire each other, and Dicks, Gov. Chris Gregoire and state transportation secretary Paul Hammond went on and on about how cool it is to have a great partner like LaHood now in D.C.

They and Sen. Patty Murray aren’t too thrilled with LaHood, or at least his department, at the moment, however, after the state got only $750,000 Tuesday from a federal ferry stimulus pot of $60 million. See my story in today’s paper.

An Associated Press story today said Murray, who inserted the $60 million into the stimulus package in the first place, was angered and spoke to LaHood by phone to “express her concern and disappointment,” said spokesman Alex Glass.

“The secretary said he would do an expedited review on the process and get back to her,” Glass said. “We want to know what happened, and we’re going to hold his feet to the fire on it.”

The story says that Hammond said that state and county ferry systems applied for 11 grants totaling about $56 million. Washington State Ferries budget guru Al McCoy told me yesterday that WSF applied for just two projects — $26 million to replace the Anacortes terminal and $9 million to refurbish the Hyak.

I’m just guessing here, but those might have been too expensive. Judging from the awards, it looks like the feds tried to spread the $60 million around as much as possible. Twenty-nine projects from 19 states and one U.S. territory got money, for an average of about $2 million per project. The largest award was for $7.2 million.

Gregoire’s spokesman, Pearse Edwards, said in the AP story that, “We are looking for answers as to why the state with the nation’s largest ferry system received so little recovery funding.”