Tag Archives: Legislation

Keep Ferry Construction in Budget

The following message was send out by the Ferry Community Partnership. I am sharing it here in its entirety. The message is important, particularly for those of us who have no drive-around options when boats fail.

WA Ferry Coalition Members:  Please see below Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent’s My Turn Op-Ed in the April 18thKitsap Sun urging passage of the transportation package and funding for new ferry construction to improve ferry fleet reliability.   Please continue to Email your legislators and ask them to pass the transportation package and ferry funding.Email addresses for all legislators are available here.

Washington’s ferry system, the largest in the country, is an iconic symbol of the state and one of its best transportation values. Building new ferries is prudent and essential, not an option.

Like any another segment of vital transportation infrastructure, the ferry system needs to be reliable, which requires maintenance and upkeep.

Both the House and Senate have taken steps to approve a transportation package this year to pay for major improvements in many areas of the state. Differing communities and populations have different mobility needs. By far the largest share in both the House and Senate proposals would go to roads and bridges. Both proposals also include funds for another new Washington State ferry, a needed improvement for our marine highway.

We all need to encourage the House and Senate to reach agreement on a final package.

Ferries provide significant transportation value for many reasons. The system collects a higher percentage of operating revenue from fares (about 67 percent) by far than do bus and rail systems. Replacing ferries with bridges would be wildly cost-prohibitive and virtually impossible because of environmental and other concerns. Without ferries, many communities currently served by them would see their economies wither. Ferries are not only the state’s top tourist attraction, but also a lifeline for commuters and many businesses.

Washington also gets longer life — an expected 60 years — out of its ferries than most other systems in the world.

In 2014 the system carried 23.2 million total riders, up 2.7 percent from 2013. There were 10.2 million vehicles on board and 6.7 million walk-on foot passengers.

The fleet needs to be kept up-to-date because when a ferry goes offline in one area, it can have repercussions for the entire system. Vessels need to be pulled aside for maintenance, and breakdowns occur.

In the last decade the state tried to extend the life of three of ferries to 80 years; the consequence was nearly a disaster. The Steel Electric ferries were suddenly pulled off the water when it was discovered they were finally no longer fit to serve. That had repercussions throughout the system, especially in Port Townsend, which lost all service for a while and went two full years before full service was restored.

Since then the state has been building ferries one at a time, but at that pace, in a system with 23 vessels, many of which have been serving for decades, it takes time to get caught up.

Washington’s two oldest ferries still in regular service are 57 and 56 years respectively. The Evergreen State was retired last year at age 60 but brought back into service two weeks later when another ferry broke down with a serious issue that required six months to fix.

Washington has five more ferries now serving their 48th year. Most other ferry systems retire vessels after 40 years. One of the 48-year-olds, the Hiyu, which ironically in the Chinook language means “plenty,” is by far the slowest and smallest in the fleet. Its only practical role is as a backup, but even then it has less than half the capacity of any other ferry.

The state’s oldest ferries have trouble keeping up during heavy traffic or after delays from issues such as emergency medical transports. When one vessel is behind a little bit, a car stalls on a boat or there is a long line somewhere, the affect can compound to alter schedules for vessels and users throughout the system. It can be extremely frustrating, resulting in hours of delay.

Investing in ferries built here in Washington is not like providing tax breaks on the promise of keeping jobs in this state. It not only funds great family-wage jobs with certainty, but importantly buys the state tangible assets that serve as critical links in our transportation system and economy for up to 60 years.

Patty Lent is mayor of the city of Bremerton.



Bi-partisan plan proposed for transportation funding

The following message was sent out this morning through the Ferry Community Partnership group.

Update: The Washington State Senate transportation leaders yesterday released a bi-partisan plan to invest $15 billion in the State’s transportation system over 16 years.   Funding for a fourth 144-car ferry is included in the proposal.   This proposal is an important first step in the 2015 Legislature passing a transportation package.   Hearings are likely to start on this proposal in the Senate on Tuesday and we will provide you an update on the schedule and best ways to participate and encourage action.  Today, please simply clink on a link below and send a short email today to any of the Senator leadership listed thanking them for their work on the transportation proposal and your support of their work.  Thank you.

Here are the members of the Senate Transportation Committee:

Senate passes HB 1129

The Senate passed HB 1129 today. This is the bill that funds building the third 144-car ferry. The vote count was 41 yeas, 8 nays. If you have time, please drop a thank you email to those senators who supported the bill. Here is the roll call report:

Ferry vessel replacement

Senate vote on 3rd Reading & Final Passage as Amended by the Senate


Yeas: 41 Nays: 8 Absent: 0 Excused: 0

Voting Yea: Senator Angel, Bailey, Baumgartner, Becker, Benton, Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Dammeier, Darneille, Eide, Fain, Fraser, Frockt, Hargrove, Hatfield, Hewitt, Hill, Hobbs, Honeyford, Keiser, King, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Liias, Litzow, McAuliffe, McCoy, Mullet, Nelson, O’Ban, Parlette, Pearson, Pedersen, Ranker, Rivers, Roach, Rolfes, Schoesler, Tom

Voting Nay: Senator Braun, Brown, Dansel, Ericksen, Hasegawa, Holmquist Newbry, Padden, Sheldon

State Senator Kevin Ranker weighs in on transportation funding

In an opinion piece published March 5, in the Islands’ Sounder, State Senator Kevin Ranker offers his thoughts on the current state of transportation funding in WA and our state’s transportation infrastructure. While he writes about the recent service disruptions in the San Juan Islands, he makes it clear that this is a statewide problem. The full article is below.

Poor ferry service is ‘unacceptable’ | Guest column

Mar 5, 2014 at 12:48PM



The level of unpredictability and lack of ferry service in recent months is unacceptable. As a frequent ferry commuter myself, I share the frustration other riders have with the inconsistent and uneven service. I also agree that the responsibility for this lies not as much with Washington State Ferries, but right here in Olympia.

The problem is that Olympia treats our ferry system differently than the rest of our state’s transportation system. That mentality is the first thing that must change. In addition to that, there are three steps that Olympia must take to make a noticeable difference in our ferry system.

First we must pass Rep. Jeff Morris’ bill to build a third new 144-car ferry. I am championing this effort in the Senate. There have been efforts to divert the money in the bill from construction of a third vessel to operations, but we have been successful so far in keeping the bill focused on construction of the third 144-car vessel. Know that I will work every angle I can to make this bill and this boat a reality.

The second key to a fully functioning and sustainable ferry system in the San Juans is to make sure that one of the three new 144-car ferries is permanently dedicated to the San Juan route. I am proud to have led the effort in the Senate two and three years ago to secure funding to build the first and second new 144-car ferries. While the first boat is dedicated elsewhere, the second boat is supposed to come to the San Juans for the spring, summer and fall when it is completed in late 2015. I am working with our state Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson to make absolutely sure that boat remains in service to the San Juans year-round by the end of 2015. This is critical if we are to have more reliable service. Securing the third new 144-car vessel will help make this a reality as that boat can support needs elsewhere in the system in the winter.

The third issue we must tackle is a transportation revenue package. We can build all the new boats we want, but if we don’t have the money to operate them, we will still have poor service and increasing fares. Currently, transportation is one of several political footballs being kicked around the capital. It’s cliché to say it, but there are no Republican roads and there are no Democratic bridges. We all depend on our transportation system and any solution for an issue of this magnitude will have to be of the bipartisan variety. Unfortunately, a transportation revenue package cannot happen without revenue and there are some that argue that we cannot raise taxes, no matter what the cost. I would argue that ferries will continue to break and bridges will continue to fall until we have a bold and thoughtful discussion that creates a new revenue package to support our state’s transportation infrastructure.

The funds allocated by the legislature since 2000 are not enough to adequately operate our state’s ferry system. Our entire state’s transportation infrastructure is woefully lacking and upgrading it is not only a matter of commerce and transportation, it is a matter of public safety.

If we were to pass a transportation revenue package, we could not only have a third ferry, but we would be able to backfill ferry operations and capital accounts so that we have a sustainable and reliable ferry system.

I cannot stress enough the good this would do for our state. As politicians, we should not be afraid of thoughtfully discussing revenues and taxes in an election year, we should be afraid of what will happen if we don’t.

It’s time to put politics aside and get this job done.

House passes bill to fund 3rd ferry

This message comes from Brad Jurkovitch of the Washington Ferry Coalition:

Update to Washington Ferry Coalition: On Wednesday, the State House of Representatives passed a funding bill (SSHB 1129) to build a 3rd 144-car ferry by a solid 62-36 vote. Information on the bill and roll call vote available at this link. This bill now moves to the Senate for consideration. Thank you for your continued work to support the Legislature to approve this important step to replace aging vessels in the WSF system.

Think about contacting State Senators to support Senate passage of this bill. Email addresses for all member of the State’s Senate Transportation Committee are available here.

Update on SHB 1129 – funding for 3rd 144-car ferry

The bill did not come up for a vote today as expected because of time. It will be voted on tomorrow. If you have written to the legislators referenced in the message from a couple of days ago, thank you. The feedback from Olympia is that these letters are making a difference. If you have not had a chance to write yet, there is still time. The email list is available here. Thanks!

State Legislators Voting on Funding for Third 144-Car Ferry

I apologize for the short notice, but our state legislators will be voting tomorrow on funding that would pay for a third 144-car ferry independent of what else may be considered in an overall transportation package. More information, a sample email, and addresses for key legislators are provided below in a message from the Ferry Community Partnership listserv. I hope you will have time to send off an email.

FCP Members: Important Update on 3rd 144-car Ferry Funding:

While a broader transportation package still could emerge during the remaining 45 days of the legislative session, members of the House Transportation Committee are scheduled to vote this Wednesday on SHB 1129, to fund a 3rd 144-car ferry. Approval of the bill this session will take advantage of the cost efficiencies associated with continuing the 144-car ferry building program now that it is ramped-up and delivering on schedule and on-budget, and will meet the critical need to replace the oldest boats in the fleet to prevent serious disruption to the ferry system and communities when 50-year plus boats go out of service.

We need you to encourage and thank the legislators for taking this step with HB 1129. Please simply send an email to several of the legislators below with a short message along these lines:

Dear Representative Smith: I strongly support your efforts to move SHB 1129 forward to fund the 3rd 144-car ferry this session. We must replace our oldest boats to prevent damage to the communities, businesses and families dependent on the ferries for their marine highways. Delay will only drive the construction cost up and your reforms have helped deliver boats on-schedule and on-budget. Thank you for your work and support on this important economic issue.

Name & Company

These are State Representatives you can email immediately: