Passenger ferry to return to Keystone

The Steilacoom II will be pulled from service for several weeks before the end of the year.

Required maintenance and inspection means the Port Townsend/Keystone route will be served temporarily by passenger-only boats. Cars and trucks will have to drive the long way around.

The Steilacoom II maintenance period will be one of the topics discussed at a Port Townsend/Keystone Ferry Route Partnership Group meeting Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 1 p.m. at Pope Marine Building in Port Townsend.

Hadley Greene, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries, said that staff hasn’t nailed down an exact time the Steilacoom II will head into drydock. The vessel is required by Coast Guard regulations to undergo its annual inspection by Dec. 31. That is expected to take about three weeks.

What kind of passenger ferry will serve Keystone remains an unanswered question.

The Snohomish provided passenger ferry service when the antiquated Steel Electrics were pulled from service last year. However, the Snohomish, along with the Chinook, are in the process of being sold to Golden Gate Transit in California.

As a result, Greene said a private company would have to be hired to provide passenger service in and out of Keystone Harbor. A private company hasn’t been chosen yet. Last year when the Steel Electrics were pulled from service, the privately-owned Olympas filled in temporarily.

Tuesday’s meeting will include a discussion of the maintenance required for the Steilacoom II, the dry dock scheduled and the options for passenger service.

The meeting will also touch upon the bidding progress for the 64-car Island Home ferries, which will provide a permanent car ferry for the Port Townsend Keystone route. There will be information about the upcoming Hood Canal Bridge closure and about the Port Townsend/Edmonds ferry run for commercial vehicle traffic.

As for the doomed Steel Electrics, ferry officials are still negotiating a deal with Environmental Recycling Systems for the sale. The Seattle company intends to tow the four vessels to Mexico where they will be scrapped.

Greene said a date hasn’t been set yet for the ferries to be towed from their current location at Eagle Harbor.

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