DOT reverses itself, gives Washington state ferry system $7.6 million

Washington State's ferries going about their business.
Washington State's ferries going about their business. Betty Udesen/Seattle Times/MCT

WASHINGTON — Only 24 hours after announcing nearly zero funding for the nation's largest ferry system, the federal Department of Transportation reversed itself Wednesday and said it would provide $7.6 million in stimulus cash for Washington state ferries.

The reversal came after Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., muscled Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who promised to "expedite" a review of why his department had not awarded any of the $60 million in ferry stimulus grants to Washington.

Murray chairs the Senate transportation appropriations subcommittee, which controls the purse strings for the Transportation Department. The subcommittee is scheduled to mark up next year's funding bill for the department next week.

The senator had inserted the $60 million in ferry grants in the stimulus bill approved by Congress earlier this year and was furious Tuesday when the grants were announced.

In her phone conversation with LaHood, Murray said she made clear that there had been a mistake and "he agreed. He said he was sorry about the oversight and rectified it."

The money will be used to procure a prototype, passenger-only, fast ferry for the Seattle-Bremerton run and to replace the Anacortes ferry terminal.

Taken with the $750,000 awarded to the Skagit County Public Works Department on Tuesday for the Guemes Island ferry, ferry systems in the state will now be receiving a total of $8.3 million.