Updated: Stimulus package benefits ferries, schools; San Juan School District will receive $233,000

Editor's note: This version clarifies information in fifth paragraph related to funding for ferries.

State ferries and local schools will benefit from the federal stimulus package approved by Congress and signed by President Obama Tuesday.

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act "will invest more than $44 million to modernize schools, fund special education and help kids learn, including investments in Title I, IDEA and school modernization and repair" in the 2nd Congressional District, according to Rep. Rick Larsen's Web site.

The Lopez Island School District will receive $113,000, Orcas Island School District will receive $217,000, San Juan Island School District will get $233,000 and Shaw Island School District will get $6,000.

In addition, schools are also eligible for resources from the $1 billion in state stabilization funds the recovery package provides for Washington state.

The $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also includes $60 million for a grant program for ferry systems nationwide. Washington State Ferries is expected to compete for funding.

“I fought alongside my Washington state colleagues to make sure that funding for ferries was included,” Larsen told the South Whidbey Record. “This is one of the great stories of the bill.”

The Everett Democrat said the money would go to upgrade terminals and other facilities. It can’t be used for ferry construction in Washington state, however, because of the state stipulation that Washington ferries must be built in Washington, he said.

The state Department of Transportation recently submitted a long-range ferry plan to the state Legislature that would invest from $1.3 billion to $3.5 billion in the next 22 years.

The various provisions for legislators to consider include an increasingly unpopular reservation system which would be phased in over two years on the Clinton-Mukilteo run.

Vehicle usage on that route is expected to increase 24 percent by 2030, the Transportation Department said.

The Transportation Department said it will go ahead with one new high-speed ferry for the Keystone-Port Townsend route. It had originally put out a bid for two, at a projected cost of $84.5 million.

Todd Pacific Shipyards of Seattle, in conjunction with Nichols Brothers Boat Builders of Freeland, submitted the only bid, $65.5 million for one ferry and $124.4 million for two.

An investment in 'good-paying jobs'
The recovery act includes $739 million for Washington state to modernize roads, bridges, transit and water infrastructure.

“This investment will create good-paying jobs and help get our economy moving again,” Larsen said.

The recovery act provides $492 million for roads, bridges and highways in the state, $179 million for transportation projects and $68 million for water infrastructure, Larsen said.

The package would also fund a 13-percent increase in the former food-stamp program, which is being replaced by a debit-card system. The increase would benefit 630,000 state residents who use the program, Larsen said. And it provides $150 million for food banks nationwide.

The recovery act also includes $3.25 billion in borrowing capacity for Bonneville Power Administration to build a new transmission grid to bring along renewable energy sources such as windmills and solar, Larsen said.

He said that, overall, the stimulus package is designed to create 3.5 million new jobs, to help those hurt most by the recession and to set a foundation for economic recovery and long-term growth.

“The cost of doing nothing is far greater than the cost of the debt we’re going to incur,” Larsen said. “The acceleration of the recession surprised everybody.”

As for Republican criticism that the package is just another massive tax-and-spend proposal, Larsen said:

“When you lose 1.5 million jobs over the past month, it’s well past time to act. We’ll be judged on whether we did something. We may take our lumps later, but at least we’re going to act.”

— Most of this story was written by Roy Jacobson of the South Whidbey Record, a Sound Publishing Co. newspaper.

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