Morris plan for third new ferry wins committee approval

Fees from vehicle registrations, titles would finance replacement for aging fleet

OLYMPIA – The state ferry system would gain a much-needed new boat to modernize its aging fleet under a measure approved by a House committee January 30.

“Our state ferry system – the largest in the United States – plays a critical role in the economic and recreational life of the Puget Sound region,” said Rep. Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, who sponsored the proposal. “We need to make sure ferry travel is safe, reliable and efficient. That means replacing the system’s outdated boats, some of which date back to the Eisenhower Administration.”

Morris said improvements to the ferry system are especially important to residents of the 40th Legislative District, which he represents in the House and which includes the San Juan Islands and the mainland coast from Anacortes to Bellingham.

The measure, House Bill 1129, would set fees of $5 for each new or renewed vehicle registration and of $12 for each vehicle title transaction processed by country auditors or the state Department of Licensing, with that money going to the financing of a new, 144-vehicle ferry in the system’s Issaquah class. Those charges are now assessed and pocketed by the private licensing agents that many car and truck owners go to for registrations and title paperwork – but the transactions currently are exempt from the fees when they are performed by county auditors or the DOL.

The state Department of Transportation has already contracted with Vigor Industrial to build two new 144-vehicle ferries at its Puget Sound shipyards. Construction of the third boat would take advantage of the worker skills, expertise and efficiency developed by Vigor, reducing the vessel’s cost.

The approval Thursday, January 30 by the House Transportation Committee routes the bill to the full House for consideration.

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