The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for June, 2009

Fourth Matches New Year’s for Drunkest Holiday

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

Independence Day weekend is a dangerous time on America’s roadways, according to the National Safety Council. From 6 p.m. Thursday through the end of Sunday, the NSC estimates there will be 381 traffic fatalities and another 20,000  disabling injuries.

It also estimates that seat belts will save 336 lives this holiday weekend and an additional 88 lives could be saved if all passengers wore seat belts.

Law enforcement will be out in full force nationwide to enact a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving. On Independence Day and New Years Day, 42 percent of all traffic fatalities are due to alcohol, the highest among all holidays.


64-Car Ferries Coming Along

Monday, June 29th, 2009

I heard today that Todd Shipyards is cutting and welding steel for the state’s first 64-car ferry. It doesn’t look like a boat yet, said Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Laura Johnson, but it’s a start. Todd, as the only bidder, won the bid for $64.5 million. The 2008 transportation budget provided $84.5 million that the state had hoped would pay for two of the boats. This first will be finished next summer.

There was a pre-bid conference June 23 to provide potential bidders with information on the second and third 64-car ferries Five Puget Sound shipyards turned out. The contract is expected to be advertised in mid-July with a builder selected in mid-September, Johnson said.


Don’t Drink and Boat

Friday, June 26th, 2009

The Coast Guard will be out this weekend on a drunk boating patrol called Operation Dry Water, looking for boat operators whose blood alcohol coontent exceeds the legal limit of .08 percent.

Those who get caught could have their boat impounded, go to jail and lose their boating or driving privileges.

“The Coast Guard in partnership with local law enforcement hopes to send a strong message this weekend that boating while intoxicated is a dangerous activity which carries serious consequences and can ruin lives, said Lt. Michael Friend of Sector Seattle Enforcement Division.In 2007, the Coast Guard said that 21 percent of boating fatalities were the result of alcohol use.


Car Ferry For Sale on EBay

Friday, June 26th, 2009

I’ve been covering ferries for 10 years and never heard about this one, the M/V Olympic, which showed up for sale on eBay. You’ve still got two days to bid. Just $199,500.

Islanders might know about it because it’s been sitting in Eagle Harbor for about a decade. It used to be owned by Washington State Ferries, but was retired in 1997 and is now owned by the Pacific Marine Foundation.

Built in 1937, the 207-foot boat could carry 55 cars and 605 passengers. It’s in lay-up status now, but all of its machinery supposedly still works.

“She is an ideal candidate for high-end camp, hotel, corporate training retreat or exclusive events center,” the description says.

The possibilities are limitless. If you’ve got a couple hundred thou laying around, stop by Ace, pick up some sandpaper and paint, and go for it.


Tunnel is Pretty Cool

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

I know it’s not politically correct, considering everybody is supposed to be pissed at this huge pork project and now we’re even supposed to be pisster now because we can’t turn right, but the new tunnel is pretty cool. I got to walk through it yesterday and it’s pretty nice how it winds along and the decorative walls and all.

As for being able to turn right on Washington Ave., we were saying here at work that if that was the plan all along, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

A ferry official warned me months ago that they were worried about how the cars would depart the boats, for good reason. There’s not much distance between the dock and the tunnel, plus it’s all curved. To have cars trying to get over to the right to turn on Washington in that area would be pretty tough.

If everybody was super polite and went nice and easy, it might work. Like that’s gonna happen.


U.S. Transportation Secretary Coming Here

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Ray LaHood, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, will be in Bremerton for the opening of the tunnel on July 6. How big a deal is that? I don’t know. I can’t say that he’s a household name, but he’s only been on the job since January. He was previously a Republican Congressman from Illinois.

I can’t remember any other U.S. transportation secretaries coming here, but I’m not sure I’d remember even if they did. But it’s got to be a pretty big deal. I can’t imagine he’s coming all the way out here just for this. Probably a bunch of other stuff he’ll be checking out.


Honking Not Constitutionally Protected

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

There’s a story in the Seattle Times today about a judge ruling that blaring a car horn is not free speech.

Helen Immelt, of Monroe, got in a dispute with the neighbor in 2006, after she learned that he had filed a complaint with their homeowners association about her chickens.
She responded by parking in front of his house at 5:50 a.m. the next day and leaning on her horn for 10 minutes straight. After he called the police, she returned for a second round of honking two hours later.
Immelt was cited for a noise violation and appealed her conviction to the superior court, saying her honking was free speech. But Judge Richard J. Thorpe ruled Monday, “Horn honking which is done to annoy or harass others is not speech.”


Dump the Pump Day

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

The American Public Transportation Association has declared June 18 to be Dump the Pump Day. The group wants everybody to use their bikes, sneakers and public transportation to cut down on gas.

Folks at Bill Shrink.com have piggy-backed on that day to say that most everybody will be back in their cars on June 19, but they can still save gas. Their site has a free gas tool to show you where to find the cheapest stations along your commute. It’s a beta version and I couldn’t get it to work. It might just be my old computer.

It says you can save an average of $130 per year just by finding the cheapest gas stations, and it’ll send you updates on where they are.

It also gives some other tips on saving gas, like not driving as often, not driving so fast (each 5 mph. you drive over 60 mph is like paying an additional $0.20 per gallon), use cruise control, lighten up your car by getting rid of all the junk, and keep it tuned up.


Navy Responsibilities Cause Clipper to Cancel Island Route

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Clipper Navigation officials were in Olympia today to ask the state  Utilities and Transportation Commission to discontinue their Seattle-San Juan passenger ferry route for a year.

The boat that normally runs the route, the Victoria Clipper III, is being used to ferry USS Abraham Lincoln sailors from their base in Everett to Bremerton’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, where the aircraft carrier is being worked on.

Clipper says it doesn’t have any other boats that would be adequate for the route — large and fast with outdoor viewing. It hopes to resume the service in 2010.

The UTC will decide whether to temporarily discontinue Clippers’ permit to operate the route, cancel the permit permanently or ask the business to voluntarily relinquish it so another vendor can use it.


Citizen Ferry Group Has More Work To Do

Friday, June 5th, 2009

The Citizens Write Plan C ferry group hasn’t gone away.
Formed to develop a third long-range plan for Washington State Ferries from people underwhelmed by the agency’s plans A and B, the citizens work group enjoyed some successes during the 2009 legislative session. But there’s still much to be done.
The group has scheduled a strategy meeting to discuss issues its members say need to be addressed before the next session. It will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Norm Dicks Government Center in Bremerton.
The group helped to keep service from being cut, to hold fare increases in check and to get money for new boats. But it disagrees about which boats to build.
The Senate wanted four 64-car ferries, the House and WSF preferred three 64s and two 144s, and the Plan C group said no 64-car boats were needed and to get started right away on 144s. It sought to convert two old 87-car ferries to work on the Port Townsend-Keyport route instead of new 64s, but ferries director David Moseley said that had already been studied and rejected.
The 2009-2011 transportation budget pays for two 64-car ferries in addition to one that’s already being built. The fourth, depending on how much money remains, will carry either 64 or 144 vehicles, and the budget begins funding for a 144-car ferry. The first boat would be delivered in 2010, with one added each of the following three years. At the earliest, a 144-car ferry would arrive in 2013.
That’s not soon enough, according to the group.
The state’s law that ferries have to be built in Washington precludes them from getting federal funds, but stimulus money might cover terminal work that’s already budgeted and the state money could slide to ferry-building, said Kari Ulatoski, a Plan C member and Vashon Island commuter.
“The message is loud and clear,” she said. “We have no backup ferries on the major routes. One 144-car ferry would take the pressure off of having to deprive one route of something when another route needs it.
“That’s why it’s really our job as members of our ferry communities to try to convey to the legislators the absolute importance that additional 144 has to these communities.”
Rep. Larry Seaquist, who spearheaded the group, said the ferry system needs about $9 million by fall to pay for the final design of the 144-car ferry if construction is to begin right after the third 64-car boat is finished. That’s where the juggling of stimulus funds and state money might come into play.
The second key issue for the Plan C group locking up some participation in the fare process and other decisions, Seaquist said. They call that the ferry community advisory council.
And the elephant in the room, Ulatoski said, is a permanent source of stable funding that’s been missing since 2000.
She said the ferry system is directed by the legislature and governor “and we need to not make them the whipping boy for issues that need to be resolved outside of their purview, whether you’re talking about fare increases or what boats to build. I think they are in agreement with us.”