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The ferry system is in turmoil
The state of Washington ferry system is in turmoil. Vessels, terminals and equipment are aging. Operation costs are rising and the state Legislature ducks responsibility and directs the ferry system management to come up with a solution. I therefore submit the following:
The Washington State Ferries are, as a matter of fact, bridges on the state highways. These bridges are a necessary component of the economy of the entire state. Commercial vehicles transport goods and products in both directions on all routes. Citizens use these bridges to reach their employment, medical treatment, obtain necessary goods and, at times, recreation. Reduction of service, a program of reservations or other restrictions on any Puget Sound route cannot be tolerated.
These ferry boats are machines. They require regular maintenance, upkeep and repair. The system terminals and slips also need regular and constant maintenance.
These bridges have a definite useful and safe life span. The cost of replacement of these complicated and intricate vessels is very great. Every new vessel should be accompanied with an annual amortizement fee, placed in escrow to provide for the future replacement.
New vessels should be designed with the object of efficiency, economy and safe operation on inland waters. There is no need for large restrooms, tables, desks, large windows, benches for sleeping, outlets for electric shavers or hair dryers provisions for morning ablutions. The boats are bridges, not motels. Pedestrian traffic accommodations need not be any different than on a municipal bus. Vehicle drivers and passengers need not leave the vehicle while in crossing. Reduce all costs through simplicity.
Restaurant facilities are not needed. The design costs, the need for additional fresh water and sewage storage, the requirement for electric power for refrigeration, cooking and water heating and the space required beget costs that are probably never recovered. No other highway bridge has these facilities and their concurrent costs. There are no rest stops on any other state highway.
Much money has been spent fitting ferry costs for tourism. These accouterments are costly and are paid for by every ferry user, without benefit. Delete these costs from any new construction. The tourist industry can provide its own vessels and their operation. It is not the province of the citizen ferry use to take the burden of this cost.
Some commercial vehicles may be tempted, by favorable rates, to use off-peak crossing times. However, the majority of commercial vehicles must meet daytime schedules at the construction, warehouses or retail sites. They should receive favorable rates and should not bear additional costs at any time.
Present ferry tolls are excessive and a burden on individuals and businesses. The state legislature must take action to reduce fares to a reasonable and economical rate and provide for a regular and sustained level of service. The ferry service must not remain separate and a stepchild of the state highway system.