Editorial: New ferries needed quickly

We trust that Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the Democrat from Camano Island who chairs the powerful Senate Transportation Committee, will keep pressuring the Legislature and Washington State Ferry System to find a solution to the Keystone to Port Townsend ferry route.

After years of study, this year’s Legislature decided to keep studying the issue. Not all has been a waste. We’ve learned that neither Central Whidbey nor Port Townsend want significantly larger boats serving their communities. But they would appreciate dependable service with modern boats.

The Steel Electric class vessels presently servicing the route are roughly 80 years old. Clearly, their days are numbered and they must be replaced. And for years Keystone Harbor has been plagued by trip cancellations caused by low tides and swift currents. Moving the harbor is not the answer, but some significant improvements are needed. It’s a key commercial and tourist route that needs much more attention from the state.

Fortunately, Haugen is well aware of the problems and no doubt knows it’s time for action, not more studies. While the state’s budget is swelling from boom-induced tax receipts, there’s no better time than now to order some new boats for Keystone/Port Townsend. It should be a top priority when the Legislature convenes next January.