The Commute

An informative and entertaining discussion on our ferries and highways with Kitsap Sun reporters.
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Archive for January, 2010

F.R.O.G.s Can Influence Ferry Decisions

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

The Washington State Transportation Commission wants more ferry riders to sign up for F.R.O.G. — Ferry Riders Opinion Group. F.R.O.G. members get to continually voice their opinions on important ferry issues.  Share your travel behaviors, and opinions, preferences and feedback on operational and pricing strategies that are or may be considered by the state.  It’s a way to make your voice heard

To get started, go here.


Kingston Port Taking Look at Fast Ferry Spirit

Thursday, January 28th, 2010

Port of Kingston Commissioner Pete DeBoer said this morning that the port is no longer considering buying a new passenger-only ferry for the commuter route it wants to establish to downtown Seattle. The commissioners want to begin operating in September, plus have deadlines on using a federal grant, and building a new boat would take too long, DeBoer said.
All American Marine in Bellingham proposed in November to build one of two 149-passenger boats — a 65-footer for $2.6 million or an 83-footer for $3.1 million. The commissioners said they’d focus on a used ferry, but a new one hadn’t been totally ruled out.
Commissioners plan to go to Seattle and take the M/V Spirit for a test drive next week, DeBoer said. Between February and April 2005, the foil-assisted catamaran was part of a research project about ferry wakes’s effects on Rich Passage beaches.
The aluminum boat was launched in December 2004 and is owned by Four Seasons Marine. It has a cruising speed of 35 knots.
There’s a ton of information and photos here about the boat.


Narrows Down to One Lane Saturday Night

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

Scheduled bridge maintenance overnight Saturday will close three lanes on the westbound Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
Lane closures are scheduled from 10 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday. All motorists will use the HOV lane and should prepare for delays.
During the closure, crew will be welding underneath the bridge and, for safety, need the pavement overhead to be free of live traffic.


Off to the Transportation Commission

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

The state Transportation Commission will be talking about Narrows Bridge tolls today. I’m headed down to see what they come up with. The citizens advisory committee recommended that the electronic toll remain at $2.75 and the the manual toll go from $4 to $5. Some transportation commission members think that’s too much of a gap between the two rates, and the state treasurer doesn’t think it would put enough in the reserve account. Look for the story sometime in the early evening.


Seattle Tunnel Toll Could Hit $4

Wednesday, January 20th, 2010

According to a story that just came across the AP wire, the state Transportation Department is recommending variable tolling for traffic through the proposed tunnel that would replace the Alaskan Way Viaduct in Seattle.
An official told KIRO Radio tolls could range from $1 at night to $4 in peak times. Tolls are expected to raise about $400 million toward the cost of the tunnel project.
Program administrator Ron Paananen says the department recommends variable-rate tolling so drivers would continue using the tunnel rather than alternate routes that could choke surface streets.
Lawmakers will make the final decision on tolls for the tunnel, which is scheduled for 2015.

For a little perspective, tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge are $2.75 for those with electronic transponders and $4 for those using the toll booths. They’ll be going up on July 1. Nobody knows by how much. I think the Legislature provided $25 million for the bridge, compared to the $400 million the tunnel will get. Bridge users will pay for the rest of the $728 million cost.


Ferries’ Final Vehicle Reservations Predesign Study Available

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Washington State Ferries final Vehicle Reservations Predesign Study was submitted to the Legislature on Jan. 11. You can check it out at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/vehiclereservations.htm. Now it’s up to the Legislature to read it and tell WSF how to proceed.


Ferries Back to Full Strength

Friday, January 15th, 2010

Washington State Ferries survived nine days with a broken boat without raiding the Bremerton route. It wasn’t easy.

The 90-car Sealth went down on Jan. 5 with a bad engine output shaft. I don’t know what that is, exactly, but it was pretty bad. The Evergreen State, which is about 5 knots slower than the Sealth, took its place part of the time and was late, late, late, like as much as an hour.

And the little 34-car Hiyu spelled the E-State on the interisland route. That’s the only backup boat in the fleet right now.

Well, they made it. The Sealth has been fixed and passed sea trials and will rejoin the route early this afternoon.

Another ferry note: Vehicles longer than 30 feet won’t be allowed on the Port Townsend-Keystone route until Tuesday because of construction at Keystone. They’ll need to use the Edmonds-Kingston route.


Click It or Ticket Seems to Be Working As Planned

Friday, January 8th, 2010

I can remember when cars didn’t even have seat belts. Now
96.4 percent of Washington drivers and passengers wear them, according to the Washington State Traffic Safety Commission’s 2009 survey.
Those last 3.5 percent are proving hard to convert. The past few years, the rate has been 96.3 percent, 96.4, a high of 96.5 in 2008 and now 96.4 again. Last year, only Michigan (97.2) and Hawaii (97.0) were higher. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration hasn’t come out with its 2009 numbers yet, but Michigan claims to have jumped to 97.9 percent.
Not so long ago, few people wore seat belts. Washington adopted its seat belt law in 1986. At that time, usage was just 36 percent. Since then, traffic deaths have dropped from 528 in 1986 to 362 in 2009 despite a hefty increase in the number of miles traveled.
Washingtonians’ fear of getting a big ticket might be tied to their high ranking. The fine here is $124, compared to a national average of just $38. That theory doesn’t hold up across the country, however. Texas, the only state with a stiffer penalty, of $200, has a lower seat belt usage of
91.2 percent.
Michigan gets incredible compliance with just a $25 ticket. Massachusetts has the lowest percentage of seat belt users at 66.8 percent. New Hampshire, at
69.2 percent, is better than that despite being the only state without a seat belt law.
I don’t remember having seat belts when I was a kid in the 1960s. They must’ve been stuffed under the seat because history says they were there. They first appeared in the front seats in the mid-1950s and became standard equipment for most makes by the early 1960s. A federal law that took effect in 1968 required all vehicles to be fitted with seat belts in all seating positions. Whether they were there or not, I never wore them, and I don’t know anybody who did.
That lasted into the 1980s, when a sister-in-law and good friend were killed in car wrecks within weeks of each other. A seat belt might have saved both of them. I swore at the funeral I’d never go without one again. It hasn’t been that hard a pledge to keep.
I’ve been in a few wrecks and they substantiate the benefits of seat belts. I wasn’t wearing a belt in one crash and smashed my head into the windshield. Knocked me out and sliced me up a bit. Still have the scars to prove it. Another time I rolled a nice Torino down a bank and landed on the top. I wound up hanging upside down from the belt, but was able to crawl out without a scratch.
The Washington survey observed 87,946 drivers and passengers on different kinds of roads. People in passenger cars had the highest seat belt use
(96.8 percent) followed by SUVs (97.3), vans
(95.5) and pickups (94.5). It was highest on state highways and interstate freeways and lowest on city streets and county roads.
Seat belt laws can have primary or secondary enforcement. Primary allows police to stop and ticket a driver if the driver isn’t wearing a seat belt. For secondary, officers can only cite somebody for not wearing a seat belt if they pulled him over for a primary offense. Washington changed from being a secondary state to a primary one in 2002, which promoted a lot more people to click their belts.
Now that seat-belt use here is stalled 3 percent short of everybody, I wonder if it’s worth it to continue to “Click It Or Ticket” emphasis patrols and marketing campaign.
As my editor said, half-seriously, if it can save one life, it’s worth it. Maybe they can stop in 2030, when Washington has set a goal of zero traffic deaths.


Bremerton Ferry Won’t Rescue San Juans

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

One of the San Juan Islands’ three ferries broke down Tuesday and is expected to be out of service for about a week, but no boats will be shifted from other routes to help out.

The 90-car Sealth has a damaged engine output shaft, according to Washington State Ferries, leaving the 144-car Kaleetan and 87-car Evergreen State to serve the islands. They’ll be joined Thursday by the 37-car Hiyu, the state’s only backup boat.


Walking Across America for Kalakala

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Steve Rodrigues, the guy who’s been trying to raise money to refurbish the 1935 art-deco ferry Kalakala, says he’s going to walk across America for funds.

He’ll start out at noon Monday from Colman Dock in Seattle and expects to arrive in Washington, D.C., within 90 days. There he hopes to ask President Obama to create a Kalakala national landmark.

Half of the money will go to the Kalakala, which is in Tacoma, the other half to an injured athlete at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in D.C.

You can contact him during the walk at kalakala.info@comcast.net or (206) 234-2045.