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Voters will get final say on transportation plan
The Legislature agreed on a $7.7 billion state transportation package that will benefit Kitsap County ferry commuters minutes before midnight Thursday, March 14.
But voters will get the final say on the plan, which will include a 9 cent per gallon gas tax and $90 million over 10 years to expand passenger-only ferry service.
The House approved the state plan 75-23 vote and the Senate passed it 30-17. The plan does not require the governors signature because it takes the form of a referendum.
The package would add passenger-only ferry service on new Kingston- and Southworth-Seattle routes.
Earlier Senate transportation budgets included no funds for the new passenger-only routes.
Steady lobbying by Kitsap lawmakers was credited with saving the foot ferry funds.
Persistency is the key, said Sen. Betti Sheldon, D-Bremerton. It helps that there are nine (legislative representatives) from Kitsap. That makes a difference.
Sheldon said it also helped that U.S. Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, monitored ferry negotiations in Olympia.
Sheldon added that informal talks in Olympia indicate the Chinook and Snohomish, the two passenger-only ferries currently operating out of Bremerton, could be moved to Kingston and Southworth.
In turn, a new used boat, built to travel quickly without causing wake damage in Rich Passage, could be purchased for the Bremerton-Seattle run.
Rumors are a dime a dozen, Sheldon said. But thats one of the things well be looking at after the session concludes.
The compromise plan would implement a 9-cent-per-gallon gas tax increase, which would cost the average Washington driver about $6 per month. The gas tax would be phased in over two years.
The plan also relies on a 1 percent sales tax increase on new and used vehicles and a 30 percent increase on truck weight fees.
The Washington State Ferries would get $322 million for four replacement vessels and $273.5 million for terminal and vessel improvements and preservation over the next decade.
The Legislature also expected to approve a regional transportation package, which was negotiated in conjunction with the state transportation plan. The regional bill would allow King, Snohomish and Pierce counties to approve local-option tax increases to fund regional highway projects that the state cant afford to take on itself. Tax options include sales taxes and car-licensing fees.
I think its an overall compromise, said Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo. I think were getting there and I am extremely pleased the Senate has moved toward the house plan on the passenger-only ferry front.
The 60-day legislative session was scheduled to conclude on Thursday, March 14.