Whidbey News-Times


Lawmakers right to seek Ferries shakeup | Our Viewpoint

July 2, 2014 · Updated 3:58 PM

Hindsight is 20/20. But when $144 million in taxpayer money is spent to design and build a new state ferry, you expect a whole lot of foresight.

Currently, with Washington State Ferries, we don’t seem to be getting much of that at all.

Though the new state ferry, Tokitae, finally went into service on the Clinton-Mukilteo run this week, it wasn’t without glitches.

Tenth District state Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, joined Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, in accusing state ferry systems managers of misleading them in March when they asked about problems with the ferry.

Smaller cars with lower clearance and longer wheel bases apparently scrape the deck when driving up to the ferry’s second level.

Undoubtedly, the recent delay in the start of Tokitae’s service on the Clinton-Mukilteo run probably included unexpected training on how to determine which vehicles will need to be kept to the lower deck.

Problems with design isn’t a new issue for state ferries.

In August 2012, Smith and Seaquist asked WSF officials why the state’s newest 64-car ferries — including the Salish and Kennewick, used on the Coupeville-Port Townsend route — vibrated and consumed too much fuel.

The biggest complaints among riders, however, was that each vessel had a three-degree list — the result of each boat’s single stairwell being located on one side rather than in the center.

It quickly earned the ferry Chetzemoka the unofficial name of “I-lean” among ferry workers.

Smith later expressed dissatisfaction with the reply she received from then-Assistant Secretary of Transportation David Moseley.

In response to Smith’s letter, Mosley explained the list, which ranged from 0.5 percent to 2.0 percent, depending on the amount of fuel and vehicle load, was intentional.

“It is unthinkable that anyone would design a vessel with an intended list,” Smith told The Herald in Everett.

In August 2013, after maintaining that the list was intentional and no ballast was to be added, state ferries added 72 tons of ballast to the Salish.

By April 15 of this year, Moseley had announced his resignation and was gone from state Ferries.

Both Smith and Seaquist are calling on Gov. Jay Inslee to hold Washington State Ferries accountable for what seems to be a pattern of poor planning.

“To ensure improvements in the department, we are strongly advising a major overhaul of upper management in the ferries division in order to restore the public trust,” they said in a letter to the governor’s office.

We believe Smith and Seaquist are absolutely right.

State ferries is in need of new blood and a lot more foresight. For $144 million, taxpayers deserve better.

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