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State again puts forward threat of ferry route cuts
Washington State Ferries — faced with a mandate to shave $5 million from its budget — has proposed service reductions on both the north and south ends of Vashon that would likely mean longer lines and longer waits for Island commuters.
The 2013-2015 budget, put forward by the ferry division last week as part of the state’s biannual budget process, includes a raft of cuts on eight ferry routes similar to what the agency proposed two years ago.
Under the budget scenario, the north-end triangle route would see its winter schedule, with reduced service, extended from 12 to 20 weeks. And on weekends year-round, one of the three boats would be taken out of service.
On the Tahlequah-Point Defiance route, the ferry division has proposed an elimination of the last run of the night, a service extension that was provided in fall 2009, as well as one mid-day trip.
David Moseley, who heads the ferry division, said he knows the cuts would be painful for ferry riders, but declining revenue from the gas tax has left a hole in the state’s transportation budget.
“This is not just a ferry service problem; this is an overall transportation problem,” he said.
During the legislative session two years ago, lawmakers, faced with a similar budget situation, chose to transfer funds from other transportation accounts to sustain ferry service levels. Moseley said it was a temporary fix, but continuing to “rob Peter to pay Paul,” he added, would have dire impacts on the state’s roads and bridges.
“It simply means less and less preservation of our highways will occur over time,” he said. “It’s not a sustainable picture.”
Last year a tax package to raise revenue for the roads and ferries failed to gain traction in the Legislature. This year, Moseley said, there’s already talk of a similar revenue package, though it’s too early to tell how it will play out once the Legislature commences in January.
“There is certainly a lot of discussion about it,” he said. “Both (transportation committee) chairs have indicated they realize there needs to be a comprehensive transportation package.”