Senator calls ferry decision ‘disappointing and short-sighted’

The decision to move a 124-vehicle ferry from the San Juan Islands to the Edmonds-Kingston route is being criticized by state Sen. Kevin Ranker.


SAN JUANS — The decision to move a 124-vehicle ferry from the San Juan Islands to the Edmonds-Kingston route is being criticized by state Sen. Kevin Ranker.

Ranker, D-Orcas Island, noted the decision to shift boats gives the Edmonds-Kingston route two boats and leaves the San Juans international run, which docks twice each day in Friday Harbor, with none.

The MV Chelan was moved from the islands to Edmonds-Kingston July 31, after the MV Puyallup was moved to Seattle-Bainbridge from the Edmonds-Kingston route. The Puyallup was moved to replace the Tacoma, which was taken out of service after losing propulsion during an afternoon sailing to Bainbridge Island, July 29.

“I have nothing but sympathy for our fellow ferry commuters south of us; we know all too well the frustration, negative economic impact and wasted time that comes from delayed ferry service,” Ranker said in a press release. “There are major differences, however, that make this decision by senior administration at Washington State Ferries disappointing and short-sighted.”

“First, while our friends to the south are experiencing significant and unacceptable delays, they at least still have service. The removal of this vessel from the Anacortes/Sidney Route does not just cause horrible delays, it cancels the entire route. Let me be clear, there will be no service between Anacortes and Sidney for at least two days.”

The two-day cancelation of the international run comes at the height of tourist season in the San Juans and on the eve of the city of Anacortes’ widely popular and commercially significant 53rd annual Arts Festival, Ranker added.

Ranker notes it is typical for ferries from the San Juan route to be used as replacement ferries elsewhere. Ranker typically supports the decision to move ferries from the route, if it’s during the winter when there is lower ridership. But in the summer to “simply end the Sidney run during an extremely busy and economically lucrative part of the year is, quite frankly, irresponsible,” Ranker said.

Service is expected to return to normal by the weekend, at which time the Wenatchee, which has been in Vancouver, B.C. for repair of a leak, will be ready for duty.

The largest ferry system in the U.S., Washington State Ferries operates 22 vessels on 10 routes in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, transporting more than 23 million commuters, tourists and business passengers a year. A newly built ferry, with 144-auto capacity, was added to the fleet earlier this year and another 144-auto ferry is under construction.

“…the fact that we have more and more vessels out of service is a clear indicator that we must move quickly to complete construction of the three new 144 car ferries,” Ranker said. “Even more to the point, however, is that this further underscores the critical need for the legislature to pass a transportation package that will improve our clearly struggling ferry system as well as other sorely needed infrastructure improvements throughout our state.”