Major ferry problem solved | Editorial
July 8, 2011 · Updated 12:05 PM
The solution to the ferry problem between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend was solved quickly in bureaucratic time.
Bureaucratic time is slower than real time, but much faster than geologic time. That fact that two new ferries could be built and placed in service in less than four years is impressive, and the beneficiaries are the tourist-dependent businesses on Whidbey Island and the tourists, commuters and Navy personnel dependent on the Coupeville (Keystone) to Port Townsend ferry to get across Admiralty Inlet.
When the Steel Electric class ferries serving the route were pulled from service in late 2007 due to safety concerns, there was no good solution on the horizon. For a while boats on the route served walk-on passengers only; finally a small car ferry called the Steilacoom II was rented and provided transportation for vehicles across Admiralty Inlet. The little ferry worked hard but couldn’t come close to the service previously provided by two Steel Electrics.
To its credit, the Washington State Legislature quickly funded two 64-car, Kw-di Tabil class ferries costing $58 million each in tough budgetary times, both slated for the Coupeville to Port Townsend route. The Chetzemoka went to work last fall and it was joined about a week ago by the Salish. The ferries came in substantially on time and on budget thanks to the work of the builders, Todd Shipyard in Seattle and Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland.
Pushing the whole project along, of course, was Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, from her powerful position as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. Without her representing the interests of Whidbey Island, the ferries may never have been built so quickly, and it’s almost certain the second Island Home ferry would have been sent to some other route.
Now, we again have two good-sized ferries serving the Coupeville-to-Port Townsend route during the busy summer months. We’re normal again, and that’s good. The process worked as it should. Local residents on Whidbey Island and in Port Townsend organized and showed the need, the Legislature responded and builders and the ferry system reacted quickly. A nice job all the way around.