The Town of La Conner in Northern Washington
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What Does 2002 Hold for San Juan County?

Published at The (San Juan) Islands' Sounder

This section came from a larger summary of opinion from San Juan (Wash.) leaders in housing, growth, technology, education and volunteerism, in addition to transportation. For the complete article, click here.


Since 1997, community leaders have gathered regularly at the Farmhouse Inn in La Conner to explore better ways to connect communities in North Snohomish, Skagit, Island, Whatcom and San Juan counties while maintaining the unique character of the region.

With funding secured through our legislators, Congressman Richard Larsen and Senator Patty Murray, the North Sound Connecting Communities Project has focused on funding and governing multi-county transportation projects.

On Nov. 9, 40 regional representatives met with the County Commissioners, Mayor Gary Boothman and Town Councilmembers, Port and WSDOT Ferry Advisory Committee leaders.

Highlights of the session:

• Expanded Amtrak and “interurban” train service : The congested Interstate 5 corridor is a nightmare. Congress is considering “High Speed Rail” legislation that would expand the Amtrak Cascades service. If the Legislature passes a state revenue package with matching funds, there will be more high speed international service from Vancouver, B.C. to Eugene, Oregon and possible regional interurban service to central Puget Sound with connections to the Anacortes Ferry Terminal.

• Expanded multi-modal transportation centers: The North Sound project is working with state and local leaders and businesses to expand transportation centers and develop interactive kiosks on regional and international travel . Ferry terminals, train stations, transit centers, town centers, and retail malls are included.

• Connecting public transit and private operators across county lines: Voter approved tax initiatives have forced transit districts to cut services. Public and private transit options for San Juan County are limited by tax considerations and the seasonal nature of tourism. How can we partner with private operators on the islands and throughout the region to expand bus/train/bicycle/ferry/pedestrian connections?

• Supplementing state ferry service: Maintaining state ferry service at an affordable cost is the top local priority. Interest was expressed in a regional coalition that could purchase the surplus state ferry “Hyak” and operate it from Bellingham and among the islands. This could help reduce the freight costs of transportation and consumer goods. Partnerships with private passenger only service for expanded seasonal operation and the possibility of a private operator for the Anacortes/Sydney route was also discussed.

A consistent theme from the Friday Harbor meeting was the fact that if the five North Sound counties could speak with one voice on regional transportation priorities, we could magnify our political clout for federal, state and private transportation projects and promote a more livable – and connected – region.

If you are interested in participating in the North Sound project please contact Bruce Agnew by e-mail c/o the Cascadia Project, Discovery Institute: or 206-292-0401 extension 113.

Bruce Agnew

Director, Cascadia Center
Since 1993, Bruce Agnew has been leading the Northwest Cascadia initiative serving as director of the Cascadia Center in Seattle. The Center is a private, non-profit, public policy center engaged in regional and international transportation and technology. Bruce also co-chairs of the Transportation Group for the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) – a public private partnership of ten Northwest states and Western Canadian provinces/territories. Since 2017, he has served as director of the ACES NW Network dedicated to the acceleration of ACES (Autonomous-Connected-Electric-Shared) technology in transportation.