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NINE TO WATCH IN '09 | Ferries plan big changes

With the Washington State Ferry system facing a $3.5 billion budget shortfall over the next 20 years, changes are in the wind.

A combination of increasing ridership, limited vehicle capacity during peak periods, aging vessels and worn-out terminals may force the state to make some radical changes this year.

Among them are higher fares, a surcharge on diesel fuel, an advanced reservations program and, perhaps the most drastic of all, turning over a portion of its operations to locally-funded governments, such as a port or local taxing district.

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