By MARGIE DOYLE
The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Ferries Division has announced a public meeting with the San Juans’ Ferry Advisory Committee (FAC) on April 2 in Friday Harbor.
The meeting will begin with a general public comment period, discussion of preliminary technical information used to develop a revised long-range plan for the ferry system and generalized operational issues. The meeting will be from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. due to the ferry sailing schedule on Wednesday, April 2 in the Mullis Senior Center at 589 Nash St., Friday Harbor.
At these meetings the Ferries Division will introduce the new Assistant Secretary David Moseley, discuss current operational issues, and talk about the work leading up to a revised long-range plan for the ferry system stemming from the 2007 ferry financing legislation.
Last year, state lawmakers set aside WSF’s long-range plan in the wake of a study, conducted by the Cedar River Group and informally called the Ferry Financing Study, that raised doubts about foundations of the long-range plan. It prompted lawmakers to freeze fare increases at 2.5 percent for the next two years, put the agency’s capital improvement plans on hold and directed ferry officials to go back and redo the strategic plan.
According to WSF Planning Director Ray Deardorf last December, everything is on the table as new ways are sought to keep the ferry system afloat. Service levels, peak-time pricing strategies, market surveys, possible elimination of frequent-rider discounts and scaled-back rider-ship forecasts all are under consideration as potentially in reducing WSF’s annual expenses, Deardorf said.
“We’ve been asked to go back and look at the fundamental components of how we operate the system,” he said. “Essentially, you could say the ferry finance study and the legislation that came out of it was the Legislature weighing in on the long-range plan with an eye on its financial reality.”
“I’m looking forward to spending time in the ferry-served communities listening to what our customers have to say,” said new Ferries Division Assistant Secretary David Moseley. “I want to meet face-to-face and have constructive conversations with the people who depend on the services we provide every day,” he said.
This agenda provides for 45 minutes of public comment upfront and implies a “question and answer” period as part of each presentation. The facilitator will work with each FAC chair to open the meetings, facilitate the comment period, and assist with the summation.
Ed Sutton, acting Chair for the San Juan Island FAC, said last week, “I am concerned that the situation in Anacortes regarding traffic stops by the Border Patrol will cause a significant response from the community at the meeting. I have advised WSF management to be prepared to address this issue as it is highly emotional and of significant concern to a large segment of our community.”
The April 2 meeting, one of a series of public meetings arranged by WSF with the region’s Ferry Advisory Commmittees, will be followed in June 2008 with a round of public meetings focusing on operational and pricing strategies and terminal design standards. In October 2008, there will be another series of public meetings to present and take comments on the revised draft long-range plan. Following these meetings, the plan will be finalized going into the 2009 legislative session. WSDOT encourages public participation in these meetings to help shape the route plans and service strategies in the long-range system plan, according to a press release sent by the Ferries Division.
For more information, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/ESHB2358.