Ferries hold meeting to discuss long term planning

KINGSTON — About 75 people recently gave up a delightful summer evening to commune with Washington State Ferries officials on the future of the ferry system during an open house at the Village Green Community Center in Kingston.

The meeting’s purpose was to get input for the ferries’ Long Range Plan which will chart a course for the ferry system through 2040. At the meeting a change was proposed to the existing Edmonds — Kingston sailing schedule.

The session consisted of a dozen posters with information on the challenges being addressed by the plan. Ferry staff were on hand to answer questions and attendees were asked to fill out surveys and questionnaires. While the plan will seek to cover many areas, two challenges seemed to stand out.

By 2040 ferry ridership is expected to grow by more than 45% and 13 ferries will need to be replaced. As of yet there’s no plan on how to address either of these issues. A challenge that was not presented on the posters, however nonetheless on the minds of those in attendance, was how the ferries and the Washington State Department of Transportation are going to address Kingston ferry traffic congestion near the terminal.

For the last two decades traffic issues have left residents complaining of a bad situation, getting worse every summer.

Those who missed the opportunity to attend the session or wish to go over the information from the open house again, an “online open house” has been made available at wsflongrangeplan.com

During the meeting, the ferries also previewed a change to the Edmonds — Kingston sailing schedule. The change will move back the first weekday sailing 10 minutes earlier from 4:55 to 4:45 a.m. It will also add a 12:20 a.m. sailing from Kingston and a 12:55 a.m. from Edmonds on Saturday night/Sunday morning. This will mimic the late night schedule currently being used on Friday nights. There are also some five and ten minute tweaking to other sailings to balance things out. To add the late night Saturday sailing, the first round trip of the day on Saturday morning will eliminated. That schedule change is planned for this fall.

If you have any comments send them to WSFComms@wsdot.wa.gov. by Thursday, May 24th. Please include “schedule change” in the subject line.

There was some disappointment among those in attendance that the ferries did not include a public discussion on the current ferry issues. These concerns include how the ferry traffic is being managed and how it may be improved. A community conversation with WSF and State Patrol was acknowledged as being important and will be scheduled. The next planning step will be for Ferries to draft up a plan and come back to the community for input in the fall.

— By Walt Elliott

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