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Ferry advocates unite for rally at the Capitol next week

A week from today, thousands are expected to converge in Olympia to insist legislators give Washington State Ferries the money it needs to serve the Puget Sound for decades to come.

In the coming months, Washington’s legislators and Gov. Christine Gregoire will decide how much funding to give the state ferry system, effectively charting its future course. And Islanders and residents of several other ferry-dependent communities plan to make their voices heard before decisions are made.

On Feb. 18, they’ll gather in the Capitol for a ferry rally, letting lawmakers know that WSF should be a top funding priority.

“Our goal, when we go down there for the rally, is reminding the lawmakers that the ferries are part of our state highway system” and should be funded as well as transportation infrastructure on land, said Gary Sipple, an organizer of next Wednesday’s ferry rally.

He’s even chartered buses from the Fauntleroy ferry terminal to Olympia to get Islanders to the Capitol en masse.

Rally organizers plan to hand-deliver the petitions they’ve been circulating for weeks, a petition that says the funding proposals currently being considered for WSF’s future are “totally unacceptable.”

To date, more than 3,500 Islanders have signed the petition, organizers say.

One plan WSF has floated would cut service dramatically on the north end, and on the south end replace the Rhododendron permanently with the smaller Hiyu.

The second plan would break up the north-end “triangle route” to better serve all three communities in the route. However, it still fails to address many of Islanders’ concerns, some say.

Rally organizers say neither proposal addresses the projected growth of Puget Sound communities that rely heavily on ferries.

So they plan to tell various legislators, face to face, that ferries deserve more funding.

“We hope that by these one-on-one meetings, we can present a unified group petitioning for all ferry communities and for all those people who are going to be hard hit by any negative changes in service,” said Kari Ulatoski, chair of the Island’s transportation committee.

“Vashon is known as the little mouse that roars, and I’d love to see us in Olympia in full force,” she added. For legislators, “this should be a wake-up call to put down these decades of neglect to WSF ... and consider it another part of the state highway system.”

Rally in Olympia

Buses will leave the Fauntleroy ferry terminal at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 18, to take Islanders to Olympia. A round-trip bus ride costs $15, and people should reserve a space by calling Gary Sipple at 463-5560 or e-mailing him at gnsipple@comcast.net.

Those who want to drive or carpool themselves should meet on the steps of the Capitol building at 11 a.m.

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