Journal staff report
A decision by Washington State Ferries to shutdown the international sailing for two days to remedy disruptions in ferry service near Seattle drew a pointed and swift rebuke from state Sen. Kevin Ranker.
The state ferry system canceled the Thursday and the Friday sailing between Anacortes and Sidney, British Columbia to shift the boat on the international run to the Edmonds-Kingston route, which earlier in the week saw one of its two vessels transferred to Seattle-Bainbridge Island route following a power failure Tuesday onboard the Tacoma, a Mark II Jumbo class ferry.
Ranker, D-Orcas Island, noted that the decision to shift of boats will give the Edmonds-Kingston route two boats and leave the San Juans international run, which docks twice each day in Friday Harbor, with none.
“Historically, when a ferry is down elsewhere in the system, replacement ferries have come from the San Juan route," Ranker, D-Orcas Island said. "During the winter, while there is an impact, I have supported these decisions, because we have lower ridership and can – for the most part – absorb the impact. In the summer however, this is not the case. To simply end the Sidney run during an extremely busy and economically lucrative part of the year is, quite frankly, irresponsible."
The two-day cancelation of the international run comes at the height of tourist season in the San Juans and on the eve of the city of Anacortes' widely popular and commercially significant 53rd annual Arts Festival, Ranker added.
“I have nothing but sympathy for our fellow ferry commuters south of us; we know all too well the frustration, negative economic impact and wasted time that comes from delayed ferry service," he said. "“There are major differences, however, that make this decision by senior administration at Washington State Ferries disappointing and short-sighted. First, while our friends to the south are experiencing significant and unacceptable delays, they at least still have service. The removal of this vessel from the Anacortes/Sidney Route does not just cause horrible delays, it cancels the entire route."
WSF's Capt. George Capacci said the Tacoma's power failure left Ferries with two vessels in need of unplanned work at the same time, while two other ferries, the Yakima and Kitsap, are out of service for scheduled maintenance. Capacci described the situation as "unprecedented."
Service is expected to return to normal by the weekend, at which time the Wenatchee, which has been in Vancouver, B.C. for repair of a leak, will be ready for duty.
The largest ferry system in the U.S., Washington State Ferries operates 22 vessels on 10 routes in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, transporting more than 23 million commuters, tourists and business passengers a year. A newly built ferry, with 144-auto capacity, was added to the fleet earlier this year and another 144-auto ferry is under construction.
"…the fact that we have more and more vessels out of service is a clear indicator that we must move quickly to complete construction of the three new 144 car ferries," Ranker said. "Even more to the point, however, is that this further underscores the critical need for the legislature to pass a transportation package that will improve our clearly struggling ferry system as well as other sorely needed infrastructure improvements throughout our state.”