A ferry crosses the Puget Sound between Coupeville and Port Townsend. Washington State Ferries expects record traffic on ferry routes during the Labor Day weekend and urges passengers to prepare for long waits. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

A ferry crosses the Puget Sound between Coupeville and Port Townsend. Washington State Ferries expects record traffic on ferry routes during the Labor Day weekend and urges passengers to prepare for long waits. (Cydney McFarland/Peninsula Daily News)

State ferries expected to be crowded this weekend

Washington State Ferries urges passengers to arrive early and prepared.

PORT TOWNSEND — The ferry route between Port Townsend and Coupeville is expected to be packed this Labor Day weekend, as are all ferry routes in the state.

The Salish and Kennewick ferries are expected to shuttle 325,000 passengers across Admiralty Inlet during the long weekend, according to Nicola Zanchi, Washington State Ferries spokeswoman.

The route will operate on its Sunday schedule this Monday, the state ferries system said.

Standby space is extremely limited, and reservations are strongly recommended for all vehicles, the agency said.

Reservations can be made up to two hours prior to sailing by calling 5-1-1 or by visiting www.takeaferry.com. Reservations holders are urged to arrive early.

From the San Juan Island to Seattle routes, vehicle reservations are already in short supply.

“We’re advising people to travel before 7 a.m. and after 10 p.m.,” Zanchi said Thursday.

“That’s when we see a little less traffic, and there are still some reservations available for Friday and Monday.”

With vehicle reservations quickly filling, the agency recommends that passengers walk on the ferry if possible because ferries have greater capacity for walk-on passengers. Passengers can also keep tabs on the ferries by signing up for travel alerts by following Washington State Ferries on social media.

The peak travel for westbound ferries is expected today, while eastbound sailings will see more traffic Monday as people return home, according to the state ferries system.

With fall on its way, Labor Day weekend is one of the last busy weekends for the ferries until next summer.

Between all ferry routes, officials estimate that 90,000 people per day will be using state ferries for the last holiday weekend of the summer.

If the predictions hold true, this Labor Day weekend’s ferry traffic will hit volumes not seen in longer than a decade.

However, with weekend temperatures dropping into the low 60s and a predicted lack of sunshine, Zanchi said those numbers might end up being a little high.

“The weather could be a bit of a deterrent,” Zanchi said. “We’re still expecting high volume, but maybe not as high as predicted.”

The ferry system has seen an increase in summer traffic throughout the past 10 to 12 years.

Current projections show an increase this summer over summer 2015 by roughly 125,000 passengers and a 317,000-passenger increase in summer traffic since summer 2014.

From June to late August this year, 7.4 million people used state ferries, an average of about 80,000 people per day, according to the state Department of Transportation.

This summer’s busiest routes were between Seattle and Bainbridge with 1.9 million passengers and, in a close second, the routes between Edmonds and Kingston with 1.2 million passengers from June to August.

The Port Townsend route is unusual in the state this month. It’s the only one without food being served in the galley.

The company serving food on the Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry route walked off the job a month earlier than it was supposed to, according to Ian Sterling, spokesman for the state ferries system.

Olympic Cascade Services lost in a bidding process to Center Plate.

The ferry system told Olympic Cascade Services to be out of the ferries by the end of September, Sterling said.

While the ferries wait for Center Plate, which already serves Safeco Field and the Tacoma Dome, it will stock up the vending machines.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at [email protected].

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