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Haugen backs fare increase
"State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen has voiced her support for pending ferry fare increases that will raise fares an average of 20 percent system-wide this spring.Ferries are a critical part of the state highway system, but are in a near-crisis state right now, said Haugen, the Camano Island Democrat who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee. She also co-chairs the Legislatures Joint Task Force on Ferries, which backs the fare increases.Whidbey Island residents face a 50 cent increase in the cost of car-and-drive ferry tickets on the two Whidbey Island routes, Keystone-Port Townsend and Clinton-Mukilteo. State Ferries is hosting a public meeting on the proposed fare hike Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6:30 to 9 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.The ferry system lost 82 percent of its construction and maintenance (capital) funding when voters approved I-695, the $30 license tab initiative, as well as 20 percent of its operations funding.Haugen said it will take as much as $85 million more for operations and $197 million more for capital to keep the ferry system at its current level of service for the next two years.Besides fare increases, Haugen has signed on to several other ferry related bills this session of the Legislature: Senate Bill 5091 would make cutting into ferry lines a violation of law. Violators could be fined by the State Patrol and forced to go to the back of the line. Haugen has introduced this bill several times, only to see it fail in the House after passing the Senate. SB 5076 would allow State Ferries to accept credit or debit cards for ferry fares or reservations, as long as it doesnt result in a loss of revenue to the state. SB 5277 would prohibit the sale of alcohol on state ferries, since drinking and driving is prohibited on the highways and ferry passengers must operate a motor vehicle upon arrival. Finally, SB 5089 would declare state ferries no smoking areas. At present, smoking is limited to outdoor areas. "