Dire warnings about the future of ferry service

C.B. Hall’s Wednesday article on Crosscut.com presents in clear terms the funding crisis in the Washington State Ferry system:

At a recent Seattle roundtable on passenger-only ferries, Moseley, who runs Washington State Ferries (WSF), furnished more details. He presented a September 2011 accounting by which the ferry system will be running in the red by the 2013-2015 biennium. Two funds that have propped up WSF operations for years (since the 2000 abolition of the motor vehicle excise tax as a funding source) will likely end up with $36 million less than needed.

And the numbers may be headed further south. The governor’s December supplemental budget revised the anticipated shortfall upward, to more than $70 million. The deficit will soar to close to $300 million in 2015-2017, in Moseley’s accounting, but the corresponding figure in the governor’s update was over $375 million.

In an interview with Crosscut, Moseley said that Hammond’s scenario would translate into a 40 percent reduction in the provider’s approximately 450 daily sailings.

But is this a do-or-die crisis, or an aggressive lobbying gambit?

AAA Washington lobbyist Dave Overstreet didn’t minimize the threat to the thousands of motorists who use the system daily, but he was hardly hitting the panic button over the Hammond scenario. “I don”t think they’d cut any routes altogether,” he told Crosscut, “but I can see them cutting the service back, on the number of crossings.”

Still, he said, “we take [Hammond’s scenario] seriously.”

Read the full story here: Gale force ferry service warnings

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