(Washington, D.C.) – U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee announced she has included up to $20 million annually in Federal highway funds for Washington State Ferries (WSF) after House and Senate leaders arrived at a bipartisan compromise to continue funding transportation projects through September 31, 2014. Overall, the bill will provide over $1.7 billion over two years for critical infrastructure projects in Washington state, creating and preserving good paying jobs while providing certainty to Washington State DOT and transportation agencies throughout Washington state. The bill passed the Senate today by a vote of 74-19, after passing the House 373-52, and will now go to the President for his signature.
"This critical funding for Washington State Ferries will help to maintain our ferries, fund current projects, and keep vessels in service," said Senator Murray. "We depend on ferries as part of our highway system, to commute to work and back home safely to our families. While this is not a perfect bill by any means, I am proud to have included this provision to create jobs, promote economic growth, and make the necessary investments in our infrastructure to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of the nation’s largest ferry system.”
Senator Murray fought to include dedicated highway funding paid out of the Highway Trust Fund for our nation’s ferry system in the compromise transportation reauthorization bill. The final bill will include $67 million for ferry systems nationwide. These funds will be distributed by formula, and of that total, up to $20 million would be for WSF annually.
This is a major victory for Washington state, as it preserves a dedicated funding source for ferries from the Federal Highway Administration. A major focus of the transportation reauthorization bill was consolidation and elimination of programs. Over two-thirds of the highway programs were consolidated, and dozens were eliminated. Retaining a dedicated funding source for ferries ensures critical federal investments in this mode of transportation will continue.
Washington state will use the new ferry formula funds for critical vessel preservation projects to maintain the U.S. Coast Guard certificate of inspection for the fleet, complete the Mukilteo Multimodal preservation and improvement projects, and to complete other terminal preservation projects such as Seattle Terminal, Southworth Terminal and equipment for the new 144-car vessels currently under contract for construction. Additional, dedicated federal funding would be used for WSF maintenance purposes.
Washington State Ferries is the nation's largest ferry system serving over 22 million riders and 10 million vehicles each year. Ferry ridership is expected to grow by 3.2 million passengers by 2020.