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Haugen: Salish’s arrival a ‘done deal’

State transportation officials witness the progress of the Salish, which looks like it will serve the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville route during the busy summer months. - Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries
State transportation officials witness the progress of the Salish, which looks like it will serve the Port Townsend-to-Coupeville route during the busy summer months.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Washington State Ferries

It’s looking more and more like the Coupeville-to-Port Townsend ferry route will have a second vessel after all.

The Senate and House submitted  transportation budgets this week and both place the Salish, the second of three Kwa-di Tabil class ferries being built, on the Coupeville run. Although neither has been adopted as of Friday morning, Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano, said she is confident that this is one part of the budget that will not change.

“This part is a done deal,” Haugen said. “There are other parts in the budget that may change but this won’t. It’s non-negotiable.”

Late last year, Washington State Ferries announced a plan to send it to the San Juan Islands as part of a cost-saving measure. It was an unexpected blow for the Central Whidbey and Port Townsend communities because the ferry was built primary to restore the service level back to what it was under the Steel Electrics.

The 80-year-old vessels were pulled from service in November of 2007 for safety reasons. The first replacement vessel, the Chetzemoka, began service on the route this past November. The Salish is expected to enter into service this summer.

Despite the transportation agency’s plan to send the second boat to the San Juans, a plan which would have kept the Coupeville route a one-boat run, Haugen has been adamant from the beginning that Whidbey Island would get its second ferry crossing Admiralty Inlet.

While there has been some skepticism from the public that the lawmaker really had the political sway to make such a commitment, Haugen said no one should be surprised that she delivered on her promise.

“I told people not to worry, that I’d take care of it,” she said.

Haugen is both a senior senator and the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, which gives her the ability to “do a lot of things, especially with budgets.” She and her counterpart in the house, Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, made this issue a priority, she said.

“People on Whidbey Island really were hurt” in the loss of the Steel Electrics,  Haugen said. “Both Judy and I promised we’d bring the boats back and that’s what we did.”

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