USA Today on the Nation's Ferries


One of WSF's new boats on the Bainbridge run.

USA Today has a lengthy piece today entitled "Nation's fleet of ferries has some old-timers at work," which looks at our boats, as well as some serious clunkers around the country. (The eldest, Adirondack, was built in 1913, and sails Lake Champlain, between Burlington, Vt., and Port Kent, N.Y.)

Washington State Ferries plays prominently in the piece, which sticks primarily to the conversation regarding the lifespan, or if there should be one, of ferries. (WSF and the legislature are looking to cap our boats at 60 years.) The story quotes experts on both sides of the coin.

I was most interested to read about the Coast Guard's roles -- security, inspections -- and how things have changed, post-Sept. 11, 2001.

Edmund Welch, the legislative director of the Passenger Vessel Association said, "The Coast Guard shifted too far toward homeland security and placed not enough resources and emphasis on its other missions, including marine safety." (Coat Guard contends that the number of ferry inspections have not changed.)

His comments echo what ferry captain David Lawton told me last September, before WSF's recent downward spiral.

"The need for new boats is absolute," he said. "If I had the option between greater security or new boats ... I would go with new boats."

Considering WSF employees on the ground were wise to the problems with the old boats long before the steel electrics were pulled and other wounds exposed, you have to wonder why their concerns were met with deaf ears, if they were relayed at all.

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