Ferry funds approved by 2021 Legislature — Progress, but not enough

Comprehensive transportation package needed ASAP

Long ferry lines and wait times over Memorial Day weekend are sure to be replicated throughout the summer and fall as travel returns to “normal”.

This year, in the 2021-23 transportation budget, the Legislature provided the majority of funds for the first new hybrid electric ferry, but fell short on making critical long-term investments for the full five ferries called for in Washington State Ferries’ Long Range Plan.

There has been discussion of a possible special session to take up a comprehensive transportation package. The package is expected to fund building the four additional hybrid vessels, conversion of existing vessels to hybrid, and terminal upgrades, resulting in reduced carbon, lower fuel consumption, better performance and enough vessels to adequately serve the state’s ferry routes.

In addition to ferry funding, a comprehensive transportation package would include needed repair/replacement of key bridges, maintenance and preservation of roads, highways and bridges across the state, and investments to improve safety and address congestion, transit, stormwater cleanup, culvert replacement and other environmental improvements.

A significant portion of WSF’s current 21-vessel fleet is due to be retired and replaced. WSF’s 2040 Long Range Plan calls for building the five new Olympic Class ferries as soon as possible. The new ferries and future replacements will be built with electric-hybrid propulsion for better environmental performance and reliability. Also, six current vessels that run on diesel will be converted to plug-in hybrids. With the installation of terminal charging equipment, this new, greener fleet would achieve up to a 50 percent reduction in emissions and annual fuel consumption compared to today’s fleet.

The Washington Ferry Coalition exists to support reliable and sustainable ferry service as an essential component of the state’s transportation system.  We advocate for critical funding and support for Washington State Ferries, which provides the vessels, infrastructure and personnel needed to maintain the ferry fleet as a lifeline that connects communities, residents, businesses, commuters, and many other individuals and organizations across Puget Sound and on the state’s marine highways.

The Washington Ferry Coalition urges its members, business organizations, ferry communities, transportation advocates and all others who care about an effective and reliable state transportation system to show their support for a comprehensive transportation package as soon as possible to improve ferry system reliability and performance, and to meet other critical transportation needs all across the state.