Petition aims to maintain ferry service in face of cuts

Ferry passengers fighting a money saving proposal to slash late night Bremerton ferry service are circulating a petition to pressure state leaders to resist the cuts.

In Gov. Chris Gregoire’s 2011-2013 budget proposal, released earlier this month, Washington State Ferries was targeted for a $20.5 million reduction, which includes the elimination of a weekday midday round trip on the Bremerton-Seattle route and axes all sailings on the run after 9:05 p.m. Though Bremerton is among the ferry communities most affected in the proposed budget cuts, the petition protests on behalf of all ferry routes.

Bremerton City Councilman Adam Brockus, who is among those circulating the petition along with local chambers of commerce, the Ferries Community Partnership and the Bremerton Ferry Advisory Committee, said the goal is to get as many signatures as possible before Jan. 15, when the petitions will be gathered to send to the governor’s office and the Legislature’s transportation committees.

“Cuts anywhere can be hurtful to anyone,” Brockus said. “We’re trying to say, ‘Hey, ferries are very important and we shouldn’t have any cuts.’”

Brockus declined to speculate how many signatures have been gathered so far or how many petitioners hope to collect before mid-January.

In addition to protesting service cuts, the petition also calls for a permanent source of state dollars to help build boats, the construction of a 144-car boat in 2012 and a long-term budget plan for the ferry system that caps fares at “reasonable rates.”

Starting Jan. 1, ferry fares will see a 2.5 percent increase, which puts Seattle-Bremerton walk-on tickets at $7.10 and vehicles under 20 feet at $12.15 for one-way passage. The governor proposed a 10 percent fare increase in her budget.

Brockus admitted it will be difficult to maintain current service levels in the face of a $4.6 billion state budget deficit through the summer of 2013, but said the cause is worth the fight.

“It’s going to be tough, we all admit that,” he said. “There are going to be cuts everywhere and we’re up against the wall like everyone else. But we’ll do our best to make the case.”

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