Opinion

In our opinion: No painless solution for Bremerton ferry problem

Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposal to create a regional ferry district to help pay for the state’s ferry system appears to be roadkill on the side of the marine highway.

It was never a popular idea, and for that one must give Gregoire credit.

But there remains the problem facing Bremerton: Cutting runs isn’t popular; raising fares isn’t popular; raising taxes is really unpopular; and every dollar sunk into ferries is one not sunk into another government project, and our government is starving for dollars.

Is there a way to preserve the ferry that won’t be unpopular? Aside, of course, from the Legislature suddenly showering us with cash, which isn’t likely to happen?

On this side of the water, we argue that the ferries are highways, and should be treated as such. But for those on the other side, they aren’t highways, they are not paved surfaces that just sit there and need an occasional pot hole filled. They are big, expensive boats, they take lots of expensive fuel to run, they require a trained crew and they simply aren’t capable of moving the same number of cars the same distance. And especially to those who don’t depend on them daily, like most state lawmakers, they can seem a nice novelty at a time of not-so-nice budgets.

It’s unclear what future awaits the Bremerton ferry. It’s not inconceivable that it will be reduced to a rush hour transport in the mornings and evenings, leaving vacant its role as a unique cultural and economic bridge between two downtowns.

Two things are almost certain: Something is going to change, and that change won’t be for the better.

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