Car ferry returns Thursday to Keystone, Port Townsend route

After more than a month in drydock, the car ferry that has been serving the Keystone ferry route for about a year is set to return to service.

The Steilacoom II is scheduled to be back on the job Thursday, Feb. 12, with the 6:30 a.m. sailing out of Port Townsend.

The return of the car ferry also means a change in the schedule for sailings. People will now follow the original schedule that was used prior to passenger ferry service.

The Steilacoom II has been out of service for nearly six weeks undergoing inspections required by the United States Coast Guard. The inspections, and subsequent maintenance work, were supposed to wrap up at the end of January, however, plans changed when workers discovered more repairs were needed for the Steilacoom II.

The drydock work on the ferry cost more than $1 million. Washington State Ferries paid $477,000 and Pierce County, which owns the boat, paid $596,000, Laura Johnson, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said.

The Steilacoom II is tentatively scheduled to serve the Port Townsend to Keystone route only until August 2009, which is when the lease Washington State Ferries has with Pierce County expires.

Losing the car ferry in August would be a problem for ferry officials since the permanent ferry for the route isn’t scheduled to be ready for service until June 2010. Construction on the Island Home-style ferry has yet to begin.

Johnson said staff is continuing to investigate options for service between August 2009 and June 2010 but didn’t have any information about a possible solution.

In recent weeks, ferry service across Admiralty Inlet has been provided by the passenger-only Mystic Sea. Starting Thursday evening, motor vehicles can resume using the route if all goes as scheduled with the Steilacoom II.

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