I-695 fallout: Some ferry runs are sunk

"Clinton commuters would be spared any ferry service cutbacks as a result of I-695, but weekend lines in the summer would grow even longer, according to plans announced Monday by ferry system chief Paul Green.On the Keystone/Port Townsend route, cuts would be more severe. One of the two ferries would be taken out of service in the fall and spring, and summer hours would be reduced.Green announced proposed cutbacks on most ferry routes in light of voter approval Nov. 2 of I-695, the $30 license tab initiative. Revenue from that source, called the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax, or car tab tax, has accounted for about 20 percent of the ferry system’s operating costs.On the Clinton/Mukilteo route, the only thing lost would be extra summer weekend trips by the Kittitas.Green’s office said the objective in making cuts on Whidbey Island was to maintain peak period commuter capacity on Clinton/Mukilteo, while retaining summer service at Port Townsend, but at a reduced number of hours.Every route is affected by the proposed cuts, a news release from Green’s office said. The object is to offset in part a $52 million reduction in car tab funds.The proposed cuts also eliminate all current and future passenger-only ferry service; provided service to Sydney, B.C., during the summer months only; and reduces night and/or midday service on all routes where cost effective.Loss of car tab revenues also virtually eliminated the ferry system’s capital fund for new equipment and to maintain facilities. Green said immediate action has been taken to stop work on several capital budget projects including expansion of passenger-only service, improvements to Colman Dock in Seattle, and proposed land purchases.The ferry chief also emphasized that Monday’s announcement could be followed by further cuts. “A comprehensive review of administrative staffing levels is underway and all service is being scrutinized,” he said.To keep the ferries afloat until the Legislature can take action, the Transportation Commission has transferred $30 million from highways to ferries to keep essential ferry service in place.Without a new capital funding structure from the Legislature, Green said, “Washington State Ferries could be out of business.”Public meetings in the affected communities will be scheduled late this month before the service cuts take effect.Proposed changesMulilteo/ClintonCurrent serviceCathlamet: 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.Kittitas: 16 hours/day, 7 days/week (Fall/Winter/Spring); 24 hours/day, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (summer only).Post I-695 serviceCathlamet: 24 hours/day, 7 days/week.Kittitas: 16 hours/day, 7 days/week (Fall, Winter, Spring)Summary: Eliminates extra Kittitas summer weekend trips.Port Townsend/KeystoneCurrent serviceKlickitat, 16 hours/day, 7 days/week (all year).Illahee, 8 hours/day, 7 days/week (Fall/Spring); 8 hours/day, 7 days/week (summer only).Post I-695 serviceKlickitat, 16 hours/day, 7 days/week (all year).Illahee, 8 hours/day, 7 days/week (Summer only).Summary: Eliminate Ilahee Fall/Spring service; cut extra Summer trips (8 hours)."

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