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LISTEN to Senator Murray question Secretary LaHood (Ferry question starts at 4:27)

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, at a hearing of the Senate Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Murray urged Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood to follow the directive included in the surface transportation authorization legislation, SAFETEA-LU, to give priority to ferry systems that carry the most passengers, carry the most vehicles, and provide “critical access to areas that are not well-served by other modes of surface transportation”.  LaHood committed to do so, and said he understood the importance of ferries to the Northwest transportation system.

Read the full exchange below:

Murray: As you know, ferries are a critical part of our transportation system in Washington, connecting communities throughout the Puget Sound and across parts of the Columbia River system.  The Washington State Ferry System is the largest ferry system in the United States, with over 40 percent of US ferry passengers and over ¾ of vehicles carried nationwide.

Last year, I introduced legislation to reauthorize the Federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Program and expand the federal investment in our nation’s ferry systems.  This legislation builds on the direction included in SAFETEA-LU to give priority to ferry systems that carry the most passengers, carry the most vehicles, and provide “critical access to areas that are not well-served by other modes of surface transportation”.  

Do I have your commitment that the Department will be closely following the directive in SAFETEA-LU  in allocating ferry funding in 2010?

LaHood: Absolutely. I had the privilege when I was in Seattle to use the ferry system. I know how important it is as a part of the overall comprehensive transportation system in the Northwest. And you have my commitment.