To the editor:
Once again the ferry service, upon which our island economy depends, is threatened. Washington State Ferries is proposing to eliminate the last sailing each weekday evening. To make matters worse, they are now canceling other ferry runs at short notice due to what they euphemistically call “staffing issues” — in reality a partial sick out by disgruntled employees.
As usual, there is not enough money. However, the ferries are our highways and, in common with the rest of the system, they are subsidized with our taxes. The DOT doesn’t threaten to close highways at times when they are lightly used in order to save the cost of maintaining or policing them. The real political problem is that the rest of the state objects to the current level of ferry subsidies because of gross waste.
Example one is the $69 million that each of the three new ferries cost and the $138 million each for the two under construction. For $95 million you can buy a new 300,000 DWT oil tanker, more than 100 times the size of a ferry boat. For $106 million you can buy the largest containership afloat with the cargo carrying capacity of 6,000 highway trucks. We pay far too much for ferries because we refuse to open the bidding to shipyards in other states.
Example two is the ridiculous price tag of over $125 million to relocate and increase the size of the Mukilteo ferry terminal when there are no plans to increase service any time soon. The cost to fix the current terminal is $60 million. The difference would pay for the late night ferry run for 65 years! The state government apparently cannot distinguish between things that are essential and things that are just nice to have.
When we spend money like it grows on trees, you can hardly blame people on the other side of the water for their reluctance to fund the ferries properly.
This has happened on Senator Haugen’s watch. Regardless of any natural inclination to vote a party line, surely the time has come for a fundamental change in leadership on transportation matters?