Want to buy beer or wine on a state highway? You can on any Washington State Ferry that has food service. Washington State Ferries (WSF) is part of our highway system. On both the Clinton/Mukilteo and Keystone/Port Townsend runs that serve Whidbey Island you can purchase beer and wine.
Is that a problem? Well it’s the only part of our state highway system that encourages persons of legal age to purchase an alcoholic beverage, consume it and then get into their vehicles and drive. There’s just something wrong with WSF granting contracts to vendors to sell alcohol on a state highway.
Susan Harris, customer information manager for WSF, states that it’s not an issue for people to buy beer and wine on the ferry since the vendors limit the amount sold. She stated also that there is more of a problem with drunken Seahawks fans after a game. To me, it seems that a person who drives his car after drinking somewhere else, gets on the ferry and purchases more alcohol, thus adding to their blood level and then driving onto Island County roads could be the real problem. This is a local issue with our safety being jeopardized by WSF allowing drivers to consume alcohol on our state highway.
What happens if alcohol sales stop? According to Ms. Harris the loss of revenue derived from alcohol sales would result in a fare increase. If money generated by the sale of alcohol keeps the fares down then there must be a lot of alcohol being sold on your state highway. On the other hand, didn’t we just get another fare increase?
Rep. Chris Strow in the last legislative session introduced a bill to prohibit sale of alcohol on ferries. It didn’t come up for a vote since it seems that Seattle interests didn’t support the bill. Rep. Strow in his reelection literature mentions that Island County residents do not want alcohol served on the ferries. This legislative session he has authored HB 1175 prohibiting sale of alcohol on ferries. How about making this an Island County issue and let Seattle and others know that we don’t want the sale of alcohol on our state highway.
I hope that our other state legislators, Rep. Barbara Bailey and Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, our county commissioners, Mac McDowell, Mike Shelton and John Dean, will tell WSF that the sale of alcohol on your highway is a health and safety issue and should stop. Members of the Ferry Advisory Committee, Keystone, have told WSF representatives in the past that this was a bad precedent for revenue generation. Is WSF listening to the people of Island County and their highway system? Evidently not when they equate alcohol sales to lower fares and fail to see the dangers to highway safety.
Coupeville resident Brian Martin serves on the Ferry Advisory Committee, Keystone.