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Marine Log

October 15, 2007

Schwarzenegger promotes Bay Area ferry move

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger made a brief stop in Alameda this morning to promote a bill he signed that establishes the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority.

SB 976 by Senator Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) was strongly supported by the Bay Area Council, a business-sponsored, public-policy advocacy organization supported by more than 275 of the largest employers in the region.

The bill had its origins in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina when the Bay Area Council was requested by state Senator Don Perata to evaluate and make recommendations to better prepare the region for a disaster. The Bay Area Council immediately assembled a Blue Ribbon Task Force whose recommendations and analysis were summarized in the report The Bay-- The Transportation Spine for Disaster, delivered to Senator Perata on April 12, 2006. (see earlier report)

Now the new Water Emergency Transportation Authority will consolidate all San Francisco Bay Area ferry operations other than those of the Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District. It will take over city-owned ferries in Alameda and Vallejo and operate future start-up ferry operations. And under SB 976, the agency will receive $250 million in state bond money to help fund ferry expansion.

That's a little short of what would be needed to meet Blue Ribbon Task Force plans that called for an 88 vessel fleet that could be built in a new Bay Area shipyard at the former Alameda Naval Air Station .

"Senator Perata has championed the idea of creating a Bay Area Water Transit agency for years and in my State of the State Address this year I committed to work with him to make it a reality. I am proud to join with him today to make it official," said Gov. Schwarzenegger. "By encouraging the expansion and consolidation of Bay Area ferry lines, this bill fills in a big piece of the region's emergency preparedness capability. We all know how quickly ground transportation can break down in an earthquake or serious disaster so water transit is vital so the Bay Area will be better prepared for an emergency and its people will be safer."

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a 62 percent probability that at least one magnitude 6.7 or greater quake will occur in the San Francisco Bay region within the next 25 years.