Ferries kicked off their long range planning process here with about dozen posters on challenges and considerations facing the system through 2040. A half dozen WSF staffers were there to answer questions from the sixty stalwart citizens who dropped by. The big three priorities for these crafty Kingstonians were traffic congestion, the long summer boat waits, and the lack of a plan to build new boats before our current ferries ones fall apart. These same problems are also the most controversial planning issues.
Ferry Traffic: With back-ups already a problem and with our annual ferry traffic projected to grow from 2 million to 3 million per year, Ferries can’t keep putting off addressing the issue.
In the long term, we need to get on with the 20-plus year old project to build another holding lot at Lindvog Rd. and reroute all traffic going to and from the ferry to NE 1st St. After four years of public meetings and several years of design work, the project’s funding was pulled in 2000. Sen. Rolfes got some money to revive the project and it’s now time for Ferries to get onboard.
In the near-term, ferries and state patrol needs to talk with the community about persistent flaws in holding lot operations and traffic handing. Then there are the no-brainers: getting our tired traffic signs fixed up, reactivating the electronic sign at Georges Corners back on, getting portapotties at Lindvog, and putting in a video camera that shows us the back-up at toll booths.
Route capacity: Unless we get more boat capacity, our route is going to choke on the projected
47 percent increase in riders. Residents renewed our decade old chant for a third summer boat. More frequent sailings will also help smooth out traffic congestion. When the two Jumbos on Kingston are retired their replacements should be three boats with significantly more total capacity.
In the past, boat waits were used to decide when more car capacity was needed. Today wait times aren’t even tracked. Instead, WSF tracks what percent of a day’s total car capacity is being used. This may make sense in Olympia, but not here. For example, on summer Fridays when all our westbound boats are packed like sardines, those overloads would be cancelled out by the less-full eastbound boats. So at WSF headquarters everything looks just fine and dandy even if we riders are waiting a few hours for a boat.
Replacement Ferries: Posters showing the age and reliability of the fleet showed that we’re headed for a cliff where, without new replacements soon, ferries will start falling apart from old age and lack of maintenance. The assumption for decades has been that we will continue to build Olympic-class boats and enjoy the savings of a standard ferry fleet. This winter, in a surprise edict, the Governor declared that building Olympic ferries was over and Washington was going to build electric/hybrid ferries instead. Pioneering a new and unproven technology may work for a young, healthy fleet. But our geriatric fleet is not up to absorbing the risk of technology gone awry or a seven to ten year delay in getting replacements. Contributing to this potential shipwreck is having a “built in Washington requirement” when our major shipyard already has a $1 billion contract for Army landing craft that will keep it busy for a very long time.
So that’s a snapshot of the “big” three public concerns. We’ll get into other comments next month.
Your Ferry Advisory Committee meets monthly on the second Monday in the Village Green Community Center at 6:30 p.m.. I can be reached at email@example.com