Opinion

Private solutions, public accountability

Unless a decision is made by Kitsap Transit to run a revised foot-ferry funding package by Kitsap County voters again, Rep. Beverly Woods, R-Poulsbo, will ask the 2004 Legis-lature to move the implementing date of her backup ferry bill to July 1 next year.

The effect of that would be that private ferry operators would not have to wait until March 1, 2005, to make application to the state Utilities and Transportation Commission to provide passenger-only ferry service for any county in Puget Sound. They could do it seven months from now.

And since the two who have already shown interest in doing so already have the boats, service could probably begin about that time, i.e., mid-2004.

Kitsap Transit was going to have to have new boats built and tested.

Incidentally, Art Anderson Associates is still working on the contract it signed a few months ago with Kitsap Transit to support the design and construction of a prototype ferry and dock system. AAA is developing the requirements, hull forms, preliminary schematic and contract designs as needed to solicit bids to build prototypes of both the vessel and dock, and will prepare a request for proposals to build a fleet of vessels and evaluate all proposals.

The contract was a bit premature, I thought, based as it was on the expectation that Proposition 1 would pass, but AAA president Eric Anderson said they had to get started and not wait until the last minute, and the work would be “reusable.”

I just hope KT’s Dick Hayes, encouraged by Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman, doesn’t screw things up by taking the full 18 months in Rep. Woods’ bill to market an alternative funding package to Prop. 1. Both of these guys are empire builders who don’t want to give up the idea of a Kitsap ferry fleet, even when there are two private operators knocking on the door.

According to media reports, Clipper Navigation wants the Kingston-Seattle route and Pacific Navigation is looking at Bremerton-Seattle. Why should we tax ourselves to build and run ferries when private enterprise is willing to take the chance?

Whatever happens, let us remember that Kitsap Transit answers to a board of directors made up of the three county commissioners; the county’s mayors and a couple of Bremer-ton council members.

We hardly ever read about that, only that “the board” OKed Hayes’ actions, almost as if the board was made up of outsiders like that overseeing the Growth Management Act.

“The board” had better be ready to defend a decision for a second run at convincing the voters to take the plunge into the ferry fleet business, even if the funding mechanism is reduced. I think it would go down even worse the second time. I noticed in a listing of supporters urging us to vote yes that the vast majority of the names were those of people on the public payroll.

Now, want to know where our ferry operations money went? Rep. Woods told her town hall meeting at Poulsbo that she visited it — the money — the other day on a trip to Eastern Washington.

To start from the beginning, money from the Multimodal Account, the 1/10th of a cent sales tax on new and used car sales, for foot-ferry service between Vashon and Seattle, Kingston and Seattle, Southworth and Seattle, was in the House transportation budget but missing when the budget came back from the Senate.

Senate Democratic leader Betti Sheldon of Bremerton was hot for the Kitsap Transit plan and didn’t like the absence of a Bremerton-Seattle foot ferry run or Woods’ alternative of increasing the car ferry runs on that route.

Money the House budgeted for the passenger ferries was shifted over to passenger rail in the I-5 corridor, the addition of a fourth rail run between Vancouver and Vancouver, B.C., and to a short rail line over near Pasco.

Goodbye passenger ferries. They were railroaded out of existence.

Woods, by the way, is asking ferry manager Mike Thorne to hold off on disposing of the remaining two foot ferries. They may be back yet, even if it isn’t between Bremerton and Seattle.

Adele Ferguson can be reached at P.O. Box 69, Hansville, WA., 98340.

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