Wolfe named transit vice-chairman

Changes are coming to the Kitsap Transit board next year.
Ed Wolfe, in his first meeting of any type as a Kitsap County commissioner Tuesday, was named vice-chairman of the board. Wolfe, who beat Linda Streissguth in November, took over the position early because Streissguth had been appointed instead of elected. He was the only choice for vice chair because the other two county commissioners, Rob Gelder and Charlotte Garrido, had recently served as chairs.
The chairmanship switches every two years between county and city representatives. Bremerton mayor Patty Lent will move up from vice chair to replace Gelder next month. She’s a huge proponent of cross-sound fast ferries, which will be a major topic in 2015.
Gelder, chairing his final meeting, chose Bainbridge Island councilman Steve Bonkowski as the at-large board member.
Bonkowski replaces Port Orchard councilman Rob Putaansuu, who’s served in the at-large role ever since it was created four years ago. A sharp and nice guy, he did a great job, though his name is hard to spell.  Before that, Bremerton had three people on the board — the mayor and two council members. That’s now down to two. The at-large rep is from one of the three smaller cities.
With Putaansuu, the Port Orchard had four people involved in Kitsap Transit leadership. Councilman John Clauson is the transit executive director, councilman Jeff Cartwright the transit human resources director, and Mayor Tim Matthes and Puttaansuu were on the board.
Beginning in January, board study sessions and meetings will be held on the first Tuesday at 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., respectively, instead of the third Tuesday at 9 and 10:15. Subcommittee meetings will be the third Tuesday at 8 for ferries, 9 for planning and 10 for personnel.

Inslee announcing transportation revenue proposal Tuesday

Gov. Jay Inslee will outline a new transportation revenue plan tomorrow for the Legislature to consider during its 2015 session. It will be held in conjunction with an event marking completion of the Highway 520 Eastside transit and HOV project at 10:30 a.m. at the new Evergreen Point road lid. It’ll be televised by TVW.

Inslee’s office, in an announcement today to announce tomorrow’s announcement, said the multi-billion-dollar package would fund safety, maintenance and preservation projects, finish highway improvements that would provide jobs, traffic relief and economic development, and invest in multimodal programs that provide more travel options. The package also includes accountability and reform measures to ensure projects are delivered on time and on budget.

Reforms were given as the major deal-breaker in an attempt to pass a package last session. The House approved a plan. The Senate, which was hung up on the reforms, had one but never brought it to a vote.

It’ll  be interesting to see how Inslee’s plan compares.



Last time the Hood Canal Bridge sank, it was gusting 120 mph

hood-canal-bridgeWith the National Weather Service predicting up to 70 mph gusts over the next day, how fast must the wind be blowing before the state shuts down the Hood Canal Bridge? I vaguely remembered it being 35 mph over a sustained period, not just a gust here and there.

Wrong, said DOT spokeswoman Claudia Bingham-Baker. More likely than not, opening the draw span wouldn’t have anything to do with the bridge itself. What happens, she explained, is when winds reach 30 mph for 15 minutes, an alarm sounds.  Bridge crews are dispatched to watch how  it responds to the waves. It will react differently depending on  the wind’s direction. If it gets too bouncy, they can open the draw span and relieve  pressure.

The world’s third-longest floating bridge withstands winds better since the east side was replaced in 2009, Bingham-Baker said. Wonder if it would withstood a pounding like took place on Feb. 13, 1979.

Winds gusting from the southwest at up to 120 mph aligned exactly with the direction of the canal. I can’t even imagine 120 mph winds or remember where I was. In the natural wind tunnel, the bridge was the only object resisting. Waves 10 to 15 feet high crashed against it for hours, until finally the western floating portion sank.

Today, it’s more likely the span would be opened and traffic stopped because drivers can’t stay in their lanes  and are freaked out by  splashing waves than fear that the storm will damage the bridge, Bingham-Baker said.

Oddly, it took winds of just 40 mph to blow down the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge on Nov. 7, 1940. It was just four months old. It’s used as an example of a major engineering failure because it  had some vertical plates that  caught the wind and caused it to sway  violently.


Carlisle II expected to finally return next week

The Carlisle II, which has been out since spring when rotted beams were discovered during annual maintenance, is repaired and back in the water in Port Townsend. It’ll undergo a Coast Guard inspection Thursday or Friday and Kitsap Transit hopes  to return it to service between Port Orchard and Bremerton late next week, said Steffani Lillie, planning and capital programs director.

The low-wake Rich Passage 1, which was damaged when a warming blanket that covered its foil caught fire in Port Townsend, has been repaired and  passed its Coast Guard inspection. It’ll be brought down from  Bellingham this week and moored at the new A Float in Bremerton. It could be leased to King County to help with the West Seattle and Vashon routes. It’s too much of a boat to operate across Sinclair Inlet, and Kitsap Transit has no use for  it until/unless it can start operating cross-Sound service.

Be among the first to get a pink license plate

BC-MountainRibbonJust when you thought there wasn’t anything else that could be turned pink in the battle against breast cancer, look at this. That’s pretty. Not only that, but proceeds will will pay for breast cancer screenings and follow up tests for women with limited or no insurance through the state Department of Health’s Breast, Cervical, and Colon Health Program.

Beginning Oct. 16, you can bid on the first batch of breast cancer license plates before they go on sale to everyone in January. The auction runs through the end of the month, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. More information about the auction and how to bid can be found here.

After this month’s auction, breast cancer license plates will be available for purchase in January for $60 through the state Department of Licensing.

Under the Affordable Care Act, nearly all health insurance plans cover breast cancer screening. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death among Washington women. A regular mammogram is the best way to find it early and make sure women get a head start on treatment when it’s most successful, according to the state Department of Health and my old pal Kelly Stowe.

Eight names submitted for new ferry

The name Illahee that many of you readers selected through this blog has a 12.5 percent chance of winding up on the next 144-car ferry.

Eight names were formally submitted  to the state Transportation Commissionby last Friday’s deadline. They are Illahee, Cowlitz, Suquamish, Sammamish, Chimacum, Taima, Tukwila and Nawt-sa-matt.

Taima is the name of the Seattle Seahawks mascot.

I had no idea what Nawt-sa-matt was. Had to look it up. Turns out, now I can’t find it. Oh, here. It’s a a new regional coalition of Native Americans and non-natives banding together to protect the Salish Sea from corporations seeking to turn it into a fossil fuel corridor.

The other six are all places with Native names.

Your Illahee didn’t get a great deal of support from local municipalities and officials. Oh well, it’s strength is it was the choice of you people, hundreds of you.

A decision will be announced on Nov. 19.


Illahee beats the Friday ferry-naming deadline

The deadline is Friday for submitting nomination packets to the state Transportation Commission to name the third Olympic-class ferry. So far, I know of three others besides Illahee, which you readers chose through a competition on this blog. I sent that to Olympia on Monday.
The other three are Suquamish, which was your second pick, Cowlitz and Sammamish.
Cowlitz and Sammamish are resubmissions from two years ago, when Tokitae and Samish were chosen. They’re the work of Cowlitz County Sheriff Mark Nelson and the city of Sammamish, according to those areas’ community newspapers.
Other finalists then were Ivar Haglund, Hoquiam and Muckleshoot. I haven’t heard anything about them, but it wouldn’t take much to resurrect them. Ivar, proffered by Seattle Times columnist and former Kitsap Sun reporter Ron Judd, stole the attention last time, but didn’t sway commissioners.
A key, according to the commission, is to show support from community and state leaders. We sought the backing of most of the area’s movers and shakers, including the Suquamish Tribe. We won’t be getting that one.
So far, the city of Bremerton is backing Illahee. Sen. Christine Rolfes, D-Bainbridge Island, and Rep. Drew Hansen, D-Bainbridge Island, support both Illahee and Suquamish. The city of Bainbridge and Rep. Sherry Appleton, D-Poulsbo, went with Suquamish. Both are good names. There’s still time get behind one of them.

The names will  go through a  review and public comment process and we’ll get the outcome at the commission’s Nov. 19 meeting in Lakewood.

Seahawks keeping flow going through Colman Dock

Tons of people rode the ferries to the Seahawks’ season-opening pummeling of Green Bay Thursday. The number paled in comparison to those who went for the Super Bowl parade in February, but it was still impressive.
More than 27,000 rode the Bainbridge and Bremerton boats for the Packers game, which might be the second-busiest day ever at Colman Dock, behind the “unprecedented,” as Washington State Ferries put it, 40,000 who crowded through the terminal on Feb. 5.
The system isn’t built for those kinds of hordes. Parade day was insane. You couldn’t even get into Bremerton, much less find a parking spot. Our maintenance guy extraordinaire, John, was chasing people out of our lot when I drove in. I knew it was going to be wild, but never imagined anything like that.
Last Thursday, fans traveled throughout the day so there weren’t lines going up to Sixth Street like for the parade. Also, WSF put on extra terminal staff and security to help with the crowds, and communicated more with riders through tweeting and travel alerts. A round trip to Bremerton was added that night.
The Seahawks don’t have any more prime-time home games on the schedule. They all start between 1 p.m. and 1:30 p.m., although times could change. Two nationally televised night games are on the road — Monday, Oct. 6, at Washington and Thursday, Nov. 27, at San Francisco, so the ferries won’t be affected. That 49er game is on Thanksgiving, by the way, at 5:30 p.m., so the turkey and cranberries time to settle.
Who knows what’s going to happen during the playoffs. Plus I’m thinking the Mariners are going to be hosting some postseason games, too, so there still could be some huge ferry crowds to come.

Ferries made 99.5 percent of sailings, were on time 95.8 percent of time

Washington State Ferries topped its goals last quarter for reliability and on-time performance.
For April through June, ferries completed 99.5 percent of 40,823 scheduled trips. The goal is 99 percent. The 206 missed sailings were 74 fewer than during the same period the previous year.
Tides and bad weather accounted for 108 cancellations, all of them  on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route. Ten different boats had mechanical issues that resulted in 76 canceled trips. The ferry Issaquah, which is normally assigned to the Southworth route, missed 11 in a single day. The route still finished at 99.4 percent. Edmonds-Kingston enjoyed the best performance at 99.9 percent completed sailings and Anacortes-Friday Harbor suffered the worst at 99.1 percent. Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth was at 99.4 percent, Seattle-Bainbridge 99.8 percent and Seattle-Bremerton 99.7 percent.
Crewing issues accounted for 14 total cancellations in the quarter, three fewer than the same period last year.
On-time performance also improved over a year ago, from 95.3 percent to 95.8. The goal is 95 percent.
On average, 19 out of 446 daily trips didn’t leave the terminal within 10 minutes of their scheduled departure time. The San Juans had the poorest mark at 90.3 percent and Point Defiance-Tahlequah the best at 99.7 percent. Locally, Edmonds-Kingston finished at 99.3 percent, Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth at 94.0 percent, Seattle-Bainbridge at 94.7 percent and Seattle-Bremerton at 98.5 percent.
Accordingly, complaints about on-time performance decreased from 40 to 11.
The ferries enjoyed their highest spring fare revenues ever, at $45.6 million. That’s $2.6 million (6.1 percent) more than spring quarter 2013. Ridership was 232,400 (4.1 percent) more.

Inslee wanted to treat booted ferry riders

Gov. Jay Inslee wanted to buy ice cream for the 482 people forced off the overloaded ferry Cathlamet a couple Friday’s ago, but he couldn’t pull it off fast enough. It would’ve been cool to see the line swing from the Bremerton ferry dock to Cold Stone Creamery.
What Inslee and Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson did arrange was to let everybody ride home from Seattle that night for free. That was their decision, Peterson said during a ferry community meeting Friday evening in Bremerton.
It cost $21,000, but might’ve been worth every cent in goodwill. Or maybe it would’ve been better spend on a traffic cop at the Fauntleroy terminal. That was just lost revenue, not including fuel and labor for adding an extra sailing.
The ferry meetings are normally held on Saturdays, but with Blackberry Fest and other events coming up, it looked for awhile like August would go without one.
“We felt there were enough things going on with our ferries that we needed to have this meeting,” Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent said of the get-together, attended live or online by folks from the San Juans to Vashon Island. “And it was a time when Lynn could attend.”
It was the first appearance for Peterson, who stuck around for 1 1/2 hours. She said the overloading Aug. 15 when Seahawks fans were headed for an exhibition game against the Chargers was more complicated than letting too many people on the boat and making them get back off.
“We always have to be be cognizant of safety first,” Lent quoted her as saying, “but she never wants it to happen again.”
In case you missed it, the Cathlamet can carry 1,200 passengers based on the number of life jackets onboard and proximity to other ferries that could help in an emergency. Crew members for some reason thought it had a 1,600-person capacity, and loaded 1,682. The captain pulled out, got a radio call from the dock with the number and went right back in.
I’m working on a story that details when and how passengers are counted, and there’s a new development in the overloading incident I’m sure you’ll find interesting.
Last Friday, the Bremerton boats started about 15 minutes late for the Seahawks’ bludgeoning of Chicago, but WSF beefed up staffing and added an extra nighttime sailing so as not to suffer deja vu, Lent said.
At one point there were two finalists for former ferry director David Moseley’s job and they came to Bremerton to meet the public. Operations and construction director George Capacci, named interim director by Peterson in March, withdrew and former Pierce County Executive John Ladenberg wasn’t chosen.
People won’t have a chance to talk to the next prospects, whose application deadline is Sunday. there’s not time for a public meet-and-greet, said Peterson, who has confidence a hiring advisory committee that includes Lent. Peterson and Inslee will make the final call.
“We want somebody who’s more on the administrative side, to make those tough decisions and be bold,” Peterson told the group Friday.
The director’s salary range is $119,000 to $145,000.
Several other high-ranking positions have also been open for a while, including director of vessels, port engineer, senior port captain and another that WSF wouldn’t confirm Monday. When you hear that WSF needs to clean house, well, much of it is already done. You feel bad that Capacci’s facing a bunch of problems without a full team. At the same time, you have to wonder why so many executives are leaving.