A gas tax being considered by the state Legislature could, if adopted, make the ferry system financially stable for more than a decade.
David Moseley, assistant secretary for the Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division, met with Coupeville business leaders at a Tuesday morning chamber of commerce meeting, and highlighted a package of bills that he said would make the ferry system financially stable for the next 12-15 years. But that stability comes at a price.
The legislature is considering adding a graduated gas tax over the next three years and the ferry system would get a piece of the money raised through that tax.
According to a recent draft of House Bill 1954, motorists would pay an additional 5 cents per gallon starting in August 2013; an additional 3 cents per gallon starting in July 2014; and an additional 2 cents per gallon starting in July 2015.
Another bill, House Bill 1955, under consideration by the legislature would sell $110 million in bonds that would pay for vessel construction and terminal renovations.
Moseley said during the meeting held at the Coupeville Public Library that the tax would raise $9.6 billion over the next 12 years and the ferry system would receive $1 billion of that amount.
That additional funding would pay for construction of a third 144-car Olympic Class ferry along with renovation of the Mukilteo and Seattle ferry terminals, maintenance of ferry facilities and vessels and provide an operational subsidy, Moseley said.
Moseley said he was optimistic about the bills because the drafts have been approved by the house transportation committee.
He also noted that prominent business organizations, such as the Washington Roundtable and chambers of commerce, have supported the bills and realize the importance of investing in infrastructure.
The state Legislature will have a second special session in order to complete a budget before the biennium ends at the end of June.
He said the funding will work better than having to ask the legislature for fund transfers from other transportation accounts because of funding shortfalls.
The revenue package was one of a number of items Moseley talked about during his meeting with Coupeville’s business leaders.
The Mukilteo ferry terminal relocation project is moving forward. The ferry system would prefer to move the current terminal east of its current location near the former tank farm.
He said he hopes the Federal Transit Administration will issue a record of decision by the end of the summer, which will allow officials to seek federal funding.
Estimates for the terminal project stand at $140 million and the ferry system is approximately $35 million short of that amount. Moseley said the Mukilteo terminal is almost 60 years old and sometimes has to be closed for repairs.
The terminal has a bad configuration because it crosses a public street. There are problems with congestion and it’s unsafe for pedestrians, ferry traffic and local traffic.
He also gave an update on the Tokitae, which will be Washington State Ferries newest vessel. The 144-car, Olympic class ferry will be complete in January 2014 and ready for service by summer 2014.
Moseley said the new ferry will likely serve the Mukilteo to Clinton route, which he said is the second busiest route in the system in terms of passengers.