State commission to vote on 6 percent ferry fare hike

SEATTLE (AP) - The state Transportation Commission voted Tuesday to increase fares for most people who travel on Washington state ferries, but youth fares and some other rates will be going down.

The fare hikes totaling about 6 percent will be phased in over the next year. They are expected to raise $328 million over the next two years to meet state budget requirements set by the Legislature.

Adult passenger fares will increase 2 percent and vehicle fares will increase 3 percent on Oct. 1. Passenger fares will go up another 2 percent and vehicle fares 2.5 percent on May 1, 2014. Increases would be higher for routes in the San Juan Islands.

For some passengers, fares will be going down. For example, people driving vehicles under 14 feet will get a discount. Youth fares will also be going down.

The state transportation budget called for $328 million from ferry fares for 2013-2015, according to the Transportation Commission. That's about 6 percent more than the fare budget for 2011-2013.

For a car or SUV between 14 feet and 22 feet long and a driver, the fare will rise about 25 to 40 cents on Oct. 1 and another 20 to 35 cents in May 1, 2014. For example, the Coupeville to Port Townsend fare for a car and driver would go from $10.20 now to $10.50 in October and $10.75 in May.

The youth passenger discount will go from 20 percent off a full fare to half off a full fare.

Vehicles shorter than 14 feet long will be charged 70 percent of the full vehicle fare.

In other business, the Transportation Commission voted Tuesday to rename the Skagit River Bridge for State Patrol Trooper Sean M. O'Connell Jr., who died nearby in an accident while directing traffic through detours set up after the bridge collapsed.

The Transportation Commission voted to rename the bridge the Trooper Sean M. O'Connell Jr. Memorial Bridge.

Trooper Sean O'Connell, 38, was a 16-year patrol veteran who died May 31 after his motorcycle collided with a truck in Conway.

The change in the bridge name was requested by lawmakers from the 40th legislative district, as well as the chief of the State Patrol and local and state government officials.

"Trooper O'Connell represents the best our state has to offer," State Sen. Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, said in a statement. "Naming the bridge in his honor is the least we can do to say thank you to him, his family and friends for his service and sacrifice to our state and its citizens."

Transportation Commission Chairman Dan O'Neal said the decision was unanimous and enthusiastic. "I can't think of a more fitting tribute," he said.