Ferry Plan Open Houses

Posted April 28, 2018 at 5:54 am by

Fer­ry arriv­ing in Fri­day Har­bor — SJ Update file photo

Come Share Your Ideas at WA State Fer­ries Local Open Hous­es May 2

Wash­ing­ton State Fer­ries will be hold­ing open house events next Wednes­day May 2 in Fri­day Har­bor, and on some inter­is­land fer­ry runs, to gath­er input for the 2040 Fer­ries Long Range Plan. This effort has been under­way for the last year or so, head­ing for a pre­lim­i­nary report in June and a com­plete report by year’s end.
This plan will shape fer­ries for the com­ing decades and is crit­i­cal­ly impor­tant to all fer­ry rid­ers, par­tic­u­lar­ly those of us who live on islands. If you think our fer­ry ser­vice can be improved, then it is vital­ly impor­tant that you share your ideas and make your voice heard at one of these open houses:

  • The day will start with an open house on the 9:30am fer­ry from Ana­cortes to Fri­day Harbor.
  • The WSF team will then shift the open house to the inter­is­land fer­ry depart­ing Fri­day Har­bor at 11:35am with stops at Shaw (12:20), Orcas (12:40), and Lopez (1:00pm), return­ing to Fri­day Har­bor at 2:00pm.
  • They will then set up at the Brick­works (150 Nichols St) from 3:30–6pm.

This Long Range Plan (LRP) looks for­ward to 2040. The cur­rent plan was draft­ed in 2009 with a hori­zon of 2030, and focused on mak­ing bet­ter use of exist­ing resources and replac­ing aging ves­sels and ter­mi­nals rather than sys­tem expan­sion. Much of what was out­lined has been accom­plished: New ves­sels have been built, replac­ing many of the old­est ves­sels; replace­ment ter­mi­nal projects have been start­ed for Col­man dock in Seat­tle and Muk­il­teo; and reser­va­tions have been imple­ment­ed on our routes and Port Townsend.

Yet as we all know too well, much work remains to be done. Due to fund­ing con­straints, the new ves­sels were replace­ments, not addi­tions, leav­ing WSF crit­i­cal­ly short of spare boats. When the Yaki­ma hit a log and bent a prop a few days ago, we were left one ves­sel short for three days because there was lit­er­al­ly noth­ing avail­able to replace it. The Elwha, sched­uled to be in the yard for a few weeks for rou­tine main­te­nance, won’t be back for months after find­ing exten­sive cor­ro­sion. Many years of under-fund­ing by leg­is­la­ture for main­te­nance is rapid­ly catch­ing up, yet fer­ries can’t even spend the avail­able funds because there aren’t enough boats to allow them to be tak­en out of ser­vice for nec­es­sary maintenance.

We also need to talk about ves­sel age. The leg­isla­tive require­ment is that fer­ries have a 60-year life­time, twice as long as any com­pa­ra­ble sys­tem. The four boats serv­ing our routes today (Chelan, Yaki­ma, Hyak and Tillikum) are 37, 51, 51, and 59 years old respec­tive­ly. The 60-year require­ment makes ves­sel con­struc­tion more expen­sive, yet a cost­ly mid-life refit is still required (but nev­er done for the Hyak, for exam­ple). The prob­lem of course is that new ves­sels are so expen­sive that it lit­er­al­ly takes an act of leg­is­la­ture to fund each one, there is no ongo­ing cap­i­tal program.

Ter­mi­nals also need atten­tion. Ana­cortes ter­mi­nal should be able to remain func­tion­al after a 100-year earth­quake. How­ev­er none of our island ter­mi­nals is expect­ed to sur­vive, there won’t be any­where for the fer­ries to dock. WSF has said that some ter­mi­nals in the sys­tem will get seis­mic refits dur­ing this plan peri­od, we need to ask which ones. And we need the sec­ond slip in Fri­day Har­bor upgrad­ed to a vehi­cle slip so that the inter­is­land doesn’t have to sit around and wait.

We don’t yet know if this plan will include any expan­sion in ser­vice, or sim­ply repeat the direc­tive to “make bet­ter use” of exist­ing resources. Yet WSF is fore­cast­ing 30% growth in vehi­cle traf­fic (37% for our routes). We’ve already got reser­va­tions which has shift­ed some traf­fic to earlier/later boats, but what next? Peak-hour pric­ing and oth­er finan­cial incen­tives were part of the pre­vi­ous plan (but not fund­ed). Should more ves­sels (or longer ser­vice hours) be part of this plan?

If you have an opin­ion on any of this, please come, ask ques­tions and make your­self heard at this series of open houses.

More info on the WSF open hous­es (includ­ing online com­ments): http://wsflongrangeplan.com
WSF’s Long-Range Plan home page: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/long-range-plan

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Categories: Ferries, Transportation

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