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House backs measure to exclude ferry hikes from I-601 limits
"A measure that allows the Washington State Transportation Commission to raise ferry fares above Initiative 601 spending limits sailed through the House of Representatives March 14 by a 68-27 vote.Now HB 1012 is on a fast track to the Senate chambers, and state Department of Transportation and Washington State Ferries (WSF) officials are keeping close watch on its progress, since significant ferry ticket price hikes could go into effect as early as May 13.That's because the commission's Tariff Policy Committee (TPC) is proposing to raise full-passenger fares to $6.50 roundtrip and frequent-commuter tickets to $5.15 roundtrip on the passenger-only ferry routes from Bremerton and Vashon Island to downtown Seattle.In addition, TPC is recommending across-the-board 20 percent fare increases on the Central Sound auto ferry routes. The Transportation Commission could make a final decision on the degree of price increases on March 28 during a public meeting in Seattle.State voters in 1993 approved Initiative 601, which called for capping fare increases to 3 percent annually. The fare increases proposed by the TPC go well beyond that threshold.Transportation officials say that's necessary for the WSF system's continued survival, especially that of the passenger-only ferry service routes. The idea is to increase the level at which ferry fares pay for the cost of operating the overall WSF system from 60 to 80 percent over the next six years.Voting against the measure were Reps. Brock Jackley and Pat Lantz - both Democrats representing the 26th District; Reps. Bill Eickmeyer and Kathy Haigh, both Democrats representing the 35th District; and Rep. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island and Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo. "