Ferry emergency: Rapid response | Editorial

The Washington Legislature receives plenty of criticism, but it can do things right and in impressive fashion. Case in point: Barely over four years since the Port Townsend to Keystone (now Coupeville) route was stripped of its ancient Steel Electric class ferries, the third and final replacement Kwa-di Tabil class ferry was introduced to the community last Friday.

The newest and last ferry of the class, the Kennewick, joins the Chetzemoka and the Salish, which have already proven their worth in crossing the often-tumultuous Admiralty Inlet. The ferries had to be designed for rough water while still being able to navigate the narrow, shallow and dangerous Keystone Harbor.

The fact that the state designed, funded and built three ferries in four years, during especially difficult budget times, is impressive indeed.

Our 10th District legislators played a vital role in seeing that the crucial link between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend was maintained. Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen oversaw the effort from her seat as chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. State Representatives Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith did all they could to help guide the proposal through the House. As Bailey told a small crowd at Friday’s ceremony, “With tears of joy we finally have a restoration of our ferry system.”

An important aspect of the project was that it brought jobs to Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland, which built the superstructures for all three vessels. A larger ferry, carrying 144 cars compared to the 64 car ferries just finished, will also be partly built by Nichols Brothers.

Finally, it must be pointed out that the Chetzemoka, Salish and Kennewick cost less than expected, coming in $6.7 million under the budgeted $213.2 million. This is a tribute to the main contractor, Vigor Industries of Seattle, as well as Nichols Brothers and state ferry managers.

All involved deserve credit for a job well done. The Legislature opened its 2012 session Monday, and this may be the last compliment they receive all year.






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