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Senate approves transportation budget with $32.1 million for new ferry

The Senate approved the state transportation budget this week, and the 2011-13 spending plan includes $32.1 million toward the construction of a new 64-car ferry.

The budget passed the Senate on a 39-9 vote on Wednesday.

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, a 10th District Democrat from Camano Island and chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the budget also includes  $6 million for safety improvements along Highway 20 and $896,000 for Island Transit for the development of park-and-ride lots.

“These are all critical investments in our future,” Haugen said. “We need new ferries, and we need to improve safety along Highway 20. Plus, transit is playing a bigger and bigger role in our lives."

"These projects, along with other important investments throughout the 10th District, position our communities for a better future.” she said.

Haugen said the budget "specifically mandates" two ferry runs on the Coupeville (Keystone)-Port Townsend route during the peak travel season by the ferries M/V Chetzemoka and M/V Salish.

“If you listened to the rumors, the Salish was headed everywhere but Coupeville and Port Townsend, but there was never any question in my mind,” Haugen said. “I’ve insisted all along that this route needs both runs, and that’s always been a part of my budget.”

Haugen said the budget preserves the delivery schedule for new ferries, including the last of three new Kwa-di-Tabil-class ferries in 2012, and provides $124 million toward the eventual construction of a new, 144-car capacity ferry, though the $124 million is contingent on the passage of a separate bill to generate additional ferry revenue.

The budget also includes $3.4 million to upgrade and maintain ferries, and $1.9 million for the ferries M/V Kittitas, M/V Cathlamet and a fourth new ferry.

The funding for Island Transit will be used to create an improved gateway to the Ebey’s Landing National Historical Preserve while also helping with the reintroduction of endangered prairie species, according to state officials. It will realign a dangerous section of Parker Road to make it safer and will provide secondary access to a new transit park next to Highway 20.

An additional $1 million in the biennium spending plan will be spent to improve Highway 20 from Race Road to Jacob’s Road.

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