Proposed Democratic transportation package would fund all-electric passenger ferry

Kitsap Transit would receive $10 million for operations, and to design, build and operate the vessel

A $16 billion state transportation revenue package by the Democrats, called Move Ahead Washington, was unveiled by the House and Senate Transportation Committee chairs Tuesday that would include funding to design and construct an all-electric passenger ferry for the Port Orchard-to-Bremerton route.

The package would provide Kitsap Transit with just over $3.5 million annually for operations and $6.5 million to support work on a new electric ferry that would sister with the agency’s existing hybrid-electric foot ferry M/V Waterman now operating on the Port Orchard-Bremerton route.

The package also would add “significant dollars in competitive grants” to Kitsap Transit for electric buses and charging infrastructure, said Kitsap Transit spokesman Sanjay Bhatt in a news release.

State Sen. Emily Randall, 26th District Democrat, and state Rep. Tarra Simmons, 23rd District Democrat, sponsored funding for the all-electric ferry, according to John Clauson, Kitsap Transit executive director.

“This is a historic vote of confidence by our state’s legislative leaders in our public transportation sector and the important contribution we make to climate action, economic development and social equity,” Clauson said.

In total, $1.3 billion is being proposed to build four new hybrid electric ferries for Washington State Ferries and to electrify two existing ships.

In good news for Kitsap County, the proposed transportation package also includes $75 million in funding for the state Department of Transportation to address public safety, traffic congestion and environmental issues associated with the Gorst highway corridor.

In a social media post, Randall said of the transportation legislation: “It’s a package that invests in our future and does not punt the costs to working families (no raised bridge tolls, no raised car tabs, no gas tax) …”

The Gorst Coalition, which includes a number of West Sound political leaders and transportation officials, has been working to increase awareness of the so-called “Gorst Mess” over the past year. It is estimated that a transportation project to fix the issue would cost nearly a half-billion dollars.

Additionally, the package includes $74.3 million for improvements to widen and strengthen SR 3 at Gorst; $25 million for pedestrians and cyclists on the Warren Avenue Bridge; and $34 million to improve the SR 3 freight corridor.

Instead of funding the proposed package from a direct tax on gasoline sales, a variety of revenue sources would be tapped, including an industry fuel export tax, and some license and other fee increases. Also, a combination of state and federal funding from the Climate Commitment Act and federal infrastructure funding, deferred sales tax on some capital projects and a one-time transfer from the state’s general fund, would be tapped for the legislation.

The full House and Senate will now review and debate the proposal prior to deciding whether to proceed with the package. Roger Miller, the state’s Secretary of Transportation, said the proposed revenue package for Move Ahead Washington is separate from the Supplemental Transportation Budget that is being finalized by the Legislature.

Correction: This article previously indicated the all-electric passenger ferry route would be from Bremerton to Seattle. It is to be from Port Orchard to Bremerton.