Sims outlines county plan for 5 new foot-ferry routes
Imagine catching a ferry from Shilshole to downtown Seattle, or from Kenmore to a job in the city. Those routes moved a bit closer to reality...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Imagine catching a ferry from Shilshole to downtown Seattle, or from Kenmore to a job in the city.
Those routes moved a bit closer to reality Thursday when King County Executive Ron Sims unveiled his plan for the county's venture into the passenger-ferry business.
Not only would the county pick up foot-ferry service from Vashon Island to downtown Seattle and continue the Elliott Bay water taxi, it would inaugurate five other demonstration routes: Kirkland to Seattle, South Puget Sound to Seattle, Kenmore to Seattle, Shilshole to Seattle, and Renton to Seattle.
The first route, Kirkland-Seattle, would begin in July 2009, followed by the South Sound route, under the county's plans.
The ferry service would be financed by a property tax of 5.5 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation or $22 for a house assessed at $400,000.
The county's Ferry District Board has scheduled a vote on the plan next Tuesday.
King County's move was prodded by the state Legislature, which in 2005 said it wouldn't continue to pay for the Vashon service.
A year ago Sims sent a letter to Gov. Christine Gregoire outlining the county's plans for assuming the Vashon route. He also told the governor the county might explore routes across Lake Washington.
The Legislature four years ago gave counties the right to create ferry districts without a public vote and to impose a property tax of up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value.
The Legislature also ordered the state Department of Transportation to sell the mothballed passenger ferries Chinook and Snohomish, with the money going to an account that counties could use to operate passenger ferries. The two ferries are expected to fetch from $6 million to $9 million.
Under Sims' plan, which must be approved by the King County Council, a new marine division would be created within King County's Department of Transportation.
Under an agreement with the state, on July 1, 2008, King County's new ferry district will assume the financial responsibility for the Vashon Island passenger ferry, but it will still be operated by Washington State Ferries. In July 2009, King County will take over the route.
The Vashon route is expected to cost about $1.7 million a year, while the demonstration routes would cost about $700,000 a year to operate.
Also in the plan:
• To begin service in 2009, the county would lease three 149-passenger vessels: one for Vashon, one for the water taxi and one for backup. Eventually the county would buy its own boats.
• The county would lease terminals from Washington State Ferries.
• The county envisions three boats leaving Vashon in the morning, beginning at 6:30 a.m., and three leaving Seattle in the afternoons, beginning at 4:40 p.m.
• The cost would be $4.25 each way, or $3.60 for a commuter ticket.
• The trip would take 16 minutes with the new, faster ferries. It now takes about a half-hour to travel between Seattle and Vashon.
King County is not the only government entity to propose a passenger-ferry plan this month.
The Port of Kingston is seeking $900,000 in state money to begin passenger-ferry service between Kingston and downtown Seattle.
Under a plan submitted last week to Gregoire, the Port of Kingston is proposing to buy two 100-passenger vessels for the 35-minute trip, operating during the weekday morning and afternoon peak periods.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
The original version of this story cited an incorrect proposed tax rate. The ferries would be funded by a property-tax rate of 5.5 cents per $1,000 in assessed value, not 55 cents. It would cost the owner of a $400,000 home $22 a year, not $220.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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