Murray pegs Transportation Secretary: Stop ferrying around

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Washington state gets additional ferry money

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray says she has secured $7.6 million more in federal money for Washington state’s ferry system a day after the state was snubbed in an initial announcement of stimulus grants.

By Jack Broom

Seattle Times staff reporter

Sen. Patty Murray, who describes herself as “furious” to learn Washington was virtually ignored on a list of federal stimulus grants to ferry projects this week, said Wednesday she’s been assured the state will receive an additional $7.6 million.

Murray said Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood told her it had been a mistake to allot Washington projects only $750,000 from a $60 million Recovery Act pool that Murray helped authorize in Congress.

When she learned of the original allocation, Murray said, “I was shocked, and I called Secretary LaHood immediately and told him I couldn’t understand this,” the Washington Democrat said. “He did not have an answer.”

Murray said LaHood called her back Wednesday, saying Washington would receive:

• $2.6 million toward the purchase of a prototype vessel for passenger-only service between Seattle and Bremerton.

• $3 million for the design of a replacement ferry terminal at Anacortes.

• $2 million toward purchase of a passenger ferry to be operated by King County between downtown and West Seattle.

The only project in this state on the original list of allocations was $750,000 for construction of a terminal for the Guemes Island ferry, operated by Skagit County.

The allocations announced Wednesday still fall far short of the $56 million Washington had sought. “We didn’t expect to get all the money we asked for, but we certainly expected to get more than we did” on the original list, said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

The U.S. Department of Transportation says funding announced Wednesday is not stimulus money, but separate federal money. Washington state’s grants were denied because the projects were not in areas that were considered economically distressed, which was required under the stimulus formula, officials said.

A statement from LaHood’s office Wednesday stopped short of characterizing the original grant list as a mistake, but noted that ferries in Washington carry more passengers each day than all of the nation’s other ferry operations combined.

Of the 19 states and one U.S. territory that received ferry money, Washington ranked third from last, topping only Arkansas and Kentucky. With Wednesday’s announcement, Washington will receive more ferry funds than any other state.

Michigan ranks next, with $8.3 million, followed by Maine, with $6.8 million.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, angered by the earlier list of allocations, on Wednesday praised the new grant allocations and Murray’s work in securing them.

The state ferry system is receiving $8.4 million in federal stimulus money through public-transit funding. And Murray said she’d work to get even more money in an upcoming transportation bill.

Material from The Associated Press is included in this story.

Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 orjbroom@seattletimes.com

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