County Council, Ferry Advisory Committee reject WSF's Plan B

The San Juan County Council and the Ferry Advisory Committee on Tuesday unanimously endorsed a response to Washington State Ferries’ Long Range-Planning Options that calls the lower-cost Plan B “an unrealistic representation of state ferry service.”

The response offers support to the system’s Plan A with some caveats.

The state Department of Transportation's Ferries Division, aka Washington State Ferries, projects that, at the current funding rate, Plan A would create a 20-year funding shortfall of $3.5 billion. Over the same period of time, Plan B would come up $1.4 billion short.

WSF's proposed Long-Range Plan A calls for the acquisition of 10 new vessels over the next 20 years and would make capital investments in land transit programs at selected terminals to encourage walk-on ferry ridership.

Plan B calls for the purchase of just five new vessels, the elimination of the Anacortes-to-Sidney ferry route, and removal of that boat from domestic service. It assumes that some of the reduction in capacity would be absorbed by passenger ferries, operated by local entities rather than the state.

The county’s response, sent in letter jointly signed by the council and the Ferry Advisory Committee, expresses deep concern about the loss of domestic capacity that would result from the loss of the Sidney ferry route and its vessel and expresses doubts about the capacity of small local entities to operate passenger ferries.

“The change in economic and government revenue fortunes has positioned WSF to be considered the ugly step-child of the state budget,” the letter states. “Balancing the state budget for the 2009-11 biennium should not be the justification for a long-term state service mistake.”

To read a copy of the Long Range Ferry Plan, CLICK HERE

To read the full text of the county’s response letter, addressed to Assistant Secretary of Transportation David Moseley, CLICK HERE

The county’s response was prepared in anticipation of the public hearing Thursday, 11:35 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., on the inter-island ferry.

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