Transit responds to mayor’s RP1 concerns

rp1Port Orchard mayor Tim Matthes’ city council removed him from the Kitsap Transit board for more fast-ferry-friendly councilman Rob Putaansuu, but Matthes didn’t let the move silence him. He supports 30-minute trips to Seattle, but worries about the boat. The lightweight, low-wake, one-of-a-kind Rich Passage 1 is too expensive and possibly unsafe, he wrote last month to the board. Doubters applauded.
The agency responded, investigating the allegations and presenting findings during a study session Tuesday. Matthes, who was there, seemed mostly satisfied.
“I appreciated that you took the time to do that,” he said.
He did recommend that the boat undergo dye penetrant, ultrasonic and X-ray tests to establish a baseline.
Anne Blair, Bainbridge Island mayor and transit board member, thanked him for playing the devil’s advocate with a board that leans the other way.
“I’m grateful challenges were made and now we’re going to get some additional information,” she said. “This is how the process should work.“
Much literally hinges on the hydrofoil, a 14-foot wing that extends across the catamaran’s tunnel, providing lift so the boat displaces less water. The foil has been through hell during it’s short life, but emerged better for the experience, said fast ferry consultant Carla Sawyer.
It fell off during sea trials in March 2010 and had to be fished off the bottom of Bellingham Bay. After being re-engineered by a national expert and reattached, it fared well during a second round of sea trials and a four-month test carrying passengers between Bremerton and Seattle.
In January 2003, the ferry ran aground on the way to a Port Townsend shipyard and the foil’s paint was scraped up. In December 2013, a heat blanket keeping moisture out while the boat out of the water caught fire and the foil was damaged. Matthes claimed it sustained excessive stress cracks but Sawyer said only the laminate cracked. Repairs strengthened the joint, she said.
Sawyer addressed a list of problems Matthes said seem to grow with every sailing.
“Excess vibration”: None have been reported, Sawyer said.
“Diesel motor mount failure causing redesign and retrofit”: The was no failure. New mounts were installed to make the boat quieter.
“Cavitation when boat operates at hydrofoil speed”: Cavitation is typical.
“Repairs and replacement of jet drives”: Impellers were damaged when they sucked up gravel during the grounding.
“Exhaust falling off”: Never happened. Three of four had cracks that were temporarily repaired while the boat was operating and later rebuilt stronger.
“Damage to saltwater systems because of dissimilar materials”: There was premature corrosion in the fire/bilge pump system. It was replaced.
“Diesel motor warranty and repair work.”: There has been no repair work to the engines.
Special painting needed because wrong material was used in strut design”: Some paint eroded. Changes were made to reduce cavitation.
“High maintenance and operating costs”: Operating costs are in line with industry standards. Boat is built out of aluminum and composites, which require little maintenance.
Matthes compared Rich Passage 1 to a hydroplane that wipes out after hooking a sponson, writing that a failure of the foil or strut could cause loss of control and sudden change of direction. “Passengers and crew would be thrown around the cabin like rag dolls, causing injuries and loss of life.”
RP1 doesn’t fly on top of the water at 135 mph, Sawyer said. At cruise speed, it lifts about two feet, leaving one foot of the hull in the water. If the foil fell off, it would just sink like last time and the boat would drop down on its hull. There would be no violent action or injuries.
Board members showed most interest in Matthes’ assertion that the engines are over-stressed and will will wear out quickly. The boat has to race at 37 knots through Rich Passage to create the least wake, which is 90 percent of rated capacity. The rest of the time it runs at 32 knots, 65 percent of capacity.
“How long do you think these engines are going to last,” Poulsbo mayor and transit board member Becky Erickson asked about speeding up and slowing down. “I’ve been told you’re going to burn the engines up. We need to find out now to build into our cost modeling.”
She requested that manufacturer Caterpillar be consulted.
Kitsap  Transit takes passenger safety seriously, said executive director John Clauson.
“We have investigated every possible concern during the operation and building of the vessel,” he said. “It has been inspected and certified by the Coast Guard several times.”

3 thoughts on “Transit responds to mayor’s RP1 concerns

  1. Ed, I hope that this blog post finds its way into the paper as an article. I believe a lot of people may have been mislead by the Mayor crying wolf about the fast ferry (that combined with the botched Seahawks playoff trips) and have tainted public opinion on the fast ferry.

  2. Still not addressed is if the RP1 will be an economic positive to those being taxed or end up bleeding sales revenue to Seattle while the Kitsap citizens are being the only side of the water taxed. I haven’t seen where it has been proven that Kitsap won’t just be sending more sales to Seattle with Kitsap subsidizing the transportation cost.

    Want a live entertainment performance? Limited Kitsap side. Want a 4 star or better dining experience for Valentines Day with a follow-on of other things to do that evening? Limited Kitsap side. Want to go dancing with your lady or gentleman? Limited Kitsap side.

    Who is going to win in this better access? Maybe a few commuting for work but what is the overall?

    Is it worth putting off Sunday bus service for the poor or transportation challenged to make this “the” priority?

    How do areas outside the 1/2 mile impact area stated benefit?

    All questions that need to be answered.

  3. Mayor Matthes’s was correct in calling into question the ability of this experimental craft to function fully as a commuter passenger only ferry on a regular schedule. I find it disgusting that the city of Port Orchard council members removed the Mayor from the Kitsap Transit Board. This reeks of filling the spots on the board with yes men and women who see nothing but the very limited positives from a 30 minute ferry ride for a few hundreds of commuters. Those same board members who think all of Kitsap County taxpayers should not be in the decision whether to support a limited commuter passenger only ferry to the tune of $40,000,000.00. I think the only other board member to even criticize or question the foot ferry avalanche was the Poulsbo Mayor.

    The more I hear from the Kitsap Transit Board, the more I think the decision is made for us lowly Kitsap County voters and taxpayers. When those who question the project are removed and yes men are installed, the voters and taxpayers lose every time. So, Kitsap County, get ready to open your wallets, thanks to your elected Kitsap Transit Board.

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

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