No second ferry for PT route? Option for budget cuts includes sending Salish to San Juans

A second ferry for the Port Townsend-Coupeville route is now in doubt.

One of the options for trimming nearly $17 million from its 2011 budget presented by the state ferries system would deliver the Salish, a 64-car ferry now under construction, to the San Juan route next spring rather than to the route between Port Townsend and Whidbey Island.

“We’d be disappointed if this was the case,” said Port Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval, who also is a member of the Ferry Community Partnership group for the route.

“We were anxiously awaiting finally getting back to our former level of service.”

Several months’ wait

No decision will be made for several months. The Office of Financial Management will consider the options, some of which may be incorporated into Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget proposal, which will be issued in December.

The governor’s proposed budget will be debated by the state Legislature after it convenes Jan. 10 for a session extending until April.

But Sandoval said that lobbying efforts will be organized soon to fight the possibility of losing the Salish, adding that a meeting would be some time this week.

Removing the promise of a second boat on the route would deflate economic development momentum, she said.

“We’ve put a lot of money into our road upgrades and infrastructure upgrades, looking forward to a time when wouldn’t have long ferry lines and disruption in service,” she said Saturday.

The Salish is the sister ship of the Chetzemoka, which is slated to start regular service Monday, Nov. 15, on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route after a celebratory inaugural sailing next Sunday, Nov. 14.

The Salish

The Salish was intended to provide full service on the Port Townsend-Coupeville route, which has struggled with one-boat service for three years, since the aging Steel Electrics — two of which plied the route — were retired because of corrosion.

Instead, under one of the options the state ferry system has proposed to accomplish a 4 percent cut for next year, a series of realignment of ferries on various routes would send the Salish to the San Juan Islands to replace the 87-car Evergreen State.

Realignment of ferries

The Evergreen State would be shifted to the Fauntleroy-Vashon Island-Southworth route, to replace the Issaquah, a 124-car vessel that would be moved to the Seattle-Bremerton route.

The Issaquah would replace a 144-car Super class ferry on the Seattle-Bremerton ferry route in the fall, winter, and spring, as well as a Super class ferry on the Anacortes-San Juan Islands ferry route in the summer.

That would permit the idling of one of the state’s four 144-car Super class” ferries.

The state Transportation Department has been asked to cut $212 million. The state is facing a $4.5 billion overall budget deficit.

“I understand the hard spot they are in,” Sandoval said.

“I just need to fight for our community.”

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