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Ferry riders face fare hikes under budget plans

Riders on the nation’s biggest ferry system, Washington State Ferries, should brace themselves for another round of fare increases. The only remaining question is how much. 

The state House and Senate have come out with competing spending blueprints for roads and ferries. One thing the budgets have in common is higher ferry fares. The  increase this fall ranges between 2.5% and 5% and another 2.5% coming next fall.

Republican state Senator Curtis King says there’s bipartisan agreement to raise fares.

“Our ferry system (as is) is not sustainable. With this budget we are trying to start the process to rectify that situation,” says King.

He says the ferry budget is getting hammered by rising fuel prices. If prices go even higher, a separate ticket surcharge is a possibility.

To save money, senators also want to change course on buying biodiesel, meaning ferries would run on regular diesel for the next two years. Midday and late night service cutbacks are also proposed.

Lawmakers will be forging compromises between the  Senate andHouse transportation budgets before voting on a final bill.

Correspondent Tom Banse is an Olympia-based reporter with more than three decades of experience covering Washington and Oregon state government, public policy, business and breaking news stories. Most of his career was spent with public radio's Northwest News Network, but now in semi-retirement his work is appearing on other outlets.