Officials applaud freight ferry plan for bridge closure

A mid-December announcement of a late night ferry for freight shipments during the upcoming six-week Hood Canal bridge closure was met with cheers from elected officials who had worked to get the additional transportation link.

"That's awesome, that's great," said Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim.

"The ferry system has really stepped up. Ferries are a big deal for the district. (Washington State Ferries Director David Moseley) has done a lot for this district," he said.

Clallam County Commissioner Steve Tharinger, D-Dungeness, said, "I'm glad to see anything the state can do to help sustain our transportation system for health care and tourism as well as for commercial traffic. It's a vital link."

The Hood Canal bridge closes at 12:01 a.m. on May 1 for up to six weeks as part of the $471 million replacement and refurbishment project.

Closure of the 1.5-mile bridge that connects Jefferson and Kitsap counties is necessary so the transition spans and roadway-topped pontoons for the east half of the 47-year-old floating roadway can be floated into place.

During the closure, one of the 328-foot Issaquah-class ferries will be rerouted from its Kingston-Edmonds run after its normal service to provide the freight shipment service.

The ferry will run Sunday through Thursday, leaving Edmonds at 8:40 p.m. and leaving Port Townsend at 10:40 p.m.

It will have room for six 82-foot tractor-trailers and 86 passenger vehicles plus 1,200 foot passengers.

"There's a limited number of vehicles allowed so it makes sense to offer the service to pedestrians although freight has priority," said DOT spokesman Becky Hixson.

The service will cost the same as the regular Edmonds-Kingston route. Fares for large trucks will be $115.60 for up to 80 feet, then $1.45 per foot after that.

Vehicle reservations will be necessary on the route but won't be taken until 30 days beforehand, Hixson said. The details of the reservation system should be available by late March, she said.

The service would be funded through the Hood Canal bridge project's $11.8 million closure mitigation budget said Rep. Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam.

"Moseley told me that directly, the money's already set aside. So that's good news. That's something businesses have been working on because they don't want to get shut off," she said.

The state Department of Transportation has spent years developing transportation alternatives for the closure. The agency's plan included free transit service and a water shuttle, transportation to medical services and even provisions for small parts suppliers such as auto parts stores.

Then during public presentations of the plan, representatives from large industrial companies such as pulp and paper mills said the plan didn't address a low-cost method of continuing their freight shipments.

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