By JENNIFER MORRIS
TACOMA — After nearly 4,000 responses from a public survey the Washington State Department of Transportation has made its decision: a South Point to Lofall ferry it is.
The ferry will provide alternative transport to commuters from May-June 2009, when the Hood Canal Bridge is closed for construction. The DOT released a survey, allowing affected drivers to decide between the South Point to Lofall route and a Port Ludlow to Kingston route. The DOT said the South Point to Lofall route was the “preferred option” by 42 percent of those surveyed in a statement released Wednesday. The proposal for Port Ludlow to Kingston ferry garnered support from 32 percent of respondents, and 26 percent indicated neither option would help them during the closure.
“The level of public participation in this process has been amazing,” said Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond. “Ultimately, the public opinion lined up with everything we know about the costs, the risks, and the facts and figures for the South Point to Lofall route.”
Two boats will run to maintain a 20-minute schedule.
The release stated the chosen route makes for less financial risk in the face of rising gas costs because of its length and number of boats required.
When construction expenses and closure-related costs for the community — in terms of time and dollars — were calculated for the two options, the net difference was found to be about $1 million, the DOT said.
“The local chambers of commerce have taken the interests of their constituents to heart and passionately advocated for those options,” said Kevin Dayton, Olympic Region Administrator. “We look forward to continuing partnerships with them as we both focus on getting ready for the closure.”
Reliable crossing schedules topped the list of priorities for those surveyed, while being inconvenienced or late was listed as a main concern.
More than 1,500 respondents indicated they are interested in using the passenger-only water shuttle — defining a need for parking on both sides.
Written comments indicated some want to stay in their cars while crossing on a ferry, however the DOT says it’s not currently in a position to offer the option.