Saturday, February 14, 2009

Funding new ferries with tourism dollars

In reading the sound off on an article on the Seattle PI website, I found a reference to this topic. It seems that a handful of state senators have realized that in addition to being a vital piece of the state highway system (let’s be honest, it’s the only road onto some of the islands in the Puget Sound, and considerable time-saver to get back and forth to the Olympic Peninsula from the Central Puget Sound area), it is also a very popular tourist attraction. Based on this realization, they have introduced Senate Bill 6005 this week.

I’ve read the bill, all 7 pages (small as fiscal and transportation bills go) of it. The bill would tap tourist revenue such as stadium and exhibition hall funding to pay for the replacement of ferries in counties with over one million residents. To be honest, a lot of the technicalities went a bit over my head and I don’t fully understand the entire thing. It appears to me, though, that the bill will tap currently unallocated tourist dollars in these counties to fund ferries. In counties like King County, with two stadiums to pay off from these funds, the money won’t be touched until the current obligations are paid, and then the money will be allocated to paying principal and interest on the purchase of new ferries.

I hope that this bill goes before the Senate Transportation committee soon so I can see a bill analysis that explains the details in more layman’s terms.

From what I understand of the bill right now, I do have some concerns:
  • Will it divert funding from existing tourist attractions such as museums, parks, galleries, and other publicly funded tourist facilities?
  • There is a potential imbalance in funding the ferry purchase; what if one county has over one million residents and taps that funding, but a county at the other end of a ferry line from it does not, it would seem that the larger county pays the entire bill, and the smaller county reaps the benefit.
  • Is this a replacement or supplement to Department Of Transportation funding for the replacement of the ferries?

In the end, we’ll just have to wait and see, I guess.

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