Last July, in the heat of the crowded race for King County Executive, the King County Ferry District seemed all but doomed. Of the candidates running, only Dow Constantine was committed to staying the course with the fledgling transportation agency.
Now that the Water Taxi's back on course, Constantine can smile even wider.
Thankfully for that agency, Constantine emerged as the winner, and yesterday helped broker a deal that accomplished his goal of keeping the West Seattle and Vashon Water Taxi routes afloat while sharply lowering the KCFD's property tax rate from $22 to $1.20 per year on a $400,000 home beginning in 2010. The deal also shelves plans to explore the establishment of a multi-route mosquito fleet.Many peninsula dwellers would have breathed easy were the West Seattle Water Taxi simply able to maintain existing service, which runs from April through October and has seen ridership double over the past four years. But thanks to the impending doom of the Alaskan Way Viaduct, an action that will disproportionately impact West Seattleites (for whom the artery serves as the main entry point to downtown), what in July looked like an especially bleak forecast for KCFD's plans to expand the route to year-round service now looks pretty darn sunny.
In order to expand service to the months of November through March (beginning in Nov. 2010), KCFD needs to come up with about $250,000 annually in additional funds. The likely source for that loot: A small slice of $33 million in state-approved mitigation money, which Constantine says the KCFD will be targeting "to help expand [Water Taxi] service during the [viaduct] construction period." (KCDOT makes recommendations for how funds should be used to WSDOT, which then authorizes the spending.)
The $33 million is tied exclusively to "south viaduct" mitigation, and is to be used through 2012. More funds will be made available for "central viaduct" mitigation, funds the KCFD could conceivably try to tap into as well. Either way, the KCFD's Board of Supervisors, which is comprised of the same personnel as the King County Council, voted to approve funds to retrofit the dock at Seacrest Park on Alki, presently a hazardously wobbly endeavor for passengers who disembark the vessel. Dock construction is scheduled to be finished by the time the Water Taxi returns to service in April.
So just when you thought the Water Taxi was out, Constantine's brought it back in. We'd expect nothing less from a man whose visage has long been plastered all over the damn ship, whose crew went so far as to name a virgin cocktail after him. We wonder how this'll all gibe with his new Deputy Executive, Fred Jarrett, who as Constantine's onetime opponent sounded more than open to sinking the ship. Guess he'll just have to get over his budgetary seasickness, eh?