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Keystone ferry reservations urged as Hood Canal bridge closes

With today's closure of the Hood Canal Bridge, ferry officals expect Whidbey Island's Keystone to Port Townsend route to receive much more traffic.

In fact, ferry users planning to take their vehicles on the Port Townsend / Keystone ferry in May should make their reservations now.

"Vehicle reservations are expected to fill up this month, a busy time with the closure of the SR 104 Hood Canal Bridge, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, and the Port Townsend Rhododendron Festival," said Susan Harris-Huether, the ferry system's senior program manager.

Making matters worse, there will not be a second ferry on the route this spring and summer, as has occurred in prior years.

The Hood Canal bridge south of Port Townsend is being closed for six weeks for construction work. It has caused a ripple effect in transportation throughout the region.

Ferry users can make vehicle reservations online at www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries, by calling 511 between 7 a.m. and 6:45 p.m., or by visiting participating businesses or visitor centers in Port Townsend and on Whidbey Island. Harris-Heuther said vehicle reservations are already full for some of the most popular sailing times this weekend, May 1 to 3.

State Ferries expects high demand on the Port Townsend/Keystone route during the six-week Highway 104 Hood Canal Bridge closure that started Friday, May 1, because the ferry will be one of the most convenient ways to travel between the Olympic Peninsula and Puget Sound. The system anticipates that a high percentage of vehicle reservation holders will redeem their reservations during the bridge closure, which will decrease the amount of standby customers that can travel. WSF encourages commuters as well as infrequent travelers to make vehicle reservations well in advance of their dates of travel. Vehicle reservations are available 30 days in advance.

In addition to providing the Port Townsend / Keystone vehicle reservations system, WSDOT is making many other preparations to handle increased ferry traffic this spring:

* Providing temporary ferry service between Port Townsend and Edmonds Sunday through Thursday evenings during the Hood Canal Bridge closure. Vehicle reservations for this service are available by calling 1-877-595-4222.

* Providing water shuttle service and bus shuttles to Kingston and Bainbridge during the Hood Canal Bridge closure. More information is available at www.HoodCanalBridge.com.

* Informing customers of their travel options during the Highway 104 Hood Canal Bridge closure, including the water shuttle, and transit and medical transport connections at Lofall and South Point. The information campaign includes updates posted on the project and ferry system Web sites, staff outreach on the vessels, and informational materials in the terminals and on the vessels.

* Providing a larger vessel on the Seattle/Bremerton route for customers that wish to use Highway 3 and Highway 101 to reach the Olympic Peninsula during the Highway 104 Hood Canal Bridge closure.

* Increasing ferry customer service staff during the Hood Canal Bridge closure.

Increasing ferry terminal staff on holiday weekends (Mother’s Day and Memorial Day).

However, another boat will not be added to the Port Townsend / Keystone route, as has happened in past years.

"We are not able to provide increased service on the Port Townsend /Keystone route this spring," Hqrris-Heuther said. "The ferry system has not received funding for extra spring weekend service on the route, which was provided during the peak season last year. There will be no extra trips this spring on weekend evenings and Monday mornings to help manage the extra traffic during those times. This makes vehicle reservations even more crucial for customers on this route."

For more ferry system information, visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries. To sign up for free e-mail alerts about service disruptions and other route information, click on the link in the far left column of the Web site.

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