House’s proposed transportation budget raises ferry fares, restores Community Transit’s Sunday bus service

  • By Jerry Cornfield Herald writer
  • Tuesday, March 22, 2011 12:01am
  • Local News

OLYMPIA — House transportation leaders Monday delivered a little good news for bus riders, bad news for ferry travelers and a warning for Washington drivers.

Democratic and Republican lawmakers wrapped it all into a presentation on their proposed $8.9 billion budget for transportation spending in the next two years. The plan could be voted on by the House as early as Friday.

In it, lawmakers allocated $1.7 million to Community Transit to restore partial service on Sundays and locked in $22 million to complete a new intersection at Bickford Avenue and U.S. 2.

Ferries get a lot of attention. There is a 5 percent increase in fares this October, another 2.5 percent increase in October 2012 but no surcharge for fuel or building new boats. They want the second new 64-car ferry used on the Coupeville-Port Townsend run.

House leaders do want to cut the last sailings on the Mukilteo-Clinton route to save nearly $1 million. Gone would be the 12:30 a.m. sailing out of Clinton and the 1:50 a.m. out of Mukilteo, according to staff.

While legislators detailed much of what they want to do in the budget that begins July 1, they warned not all of it can get done unless the state comes up with more money — a matter they’ll try to put before voters in 2012.

“We will need to have new revenue in the future,” said Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, chairwoman of the House Transportation Committee.

The problem is money from gas taxes is declining steadily and leaving the state with fewer dollars to ensure Washington State Ferries keeps floating, the public transit system keeps running and dozens of road projects get finished.

Clibborn backs an increase in the gas tax and wanted to see something appear on this November’s ballot. Now, she said, she’d like to put the “bare bones” of a revenue package together this session “so people can start responding to it.”

Rep. Mike Armstrong, R-Wenatchee, the ranking Republican on the committee, agreed on the need for new revenue though he said the state needs to look for options besides the gas tax.

The ferry system is one of the most visible places where the House transportation leaders are taking a gamble they’ll find the money.

They’ve included $32 million to complete construction of two new 64-car ferries, pledged another $65 million toward building a 144-car vessel.

That’s only enough to build half of a boat, and the rest of the money would have to come from a new source of transportation funding, Clibborn said.

“I want you to know we won’t build half a ferry,” she said.

Today Senate transportation leaders will roll out their transportation budget proposal. Once each chamber passes their respective budgets, negotiations will be held to iron out any differences.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

On the Net

To view all the House transportation related documents, go to tinyurl.com/HouseTrans2011.

For details by agency, go to tinyurl.com/HouseTrans2011Agency.

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