Victoria Express to fill in on Bremerton-Seattle ferry route

PORT ANGELES — Victoria Express, a Port Angeles-based ferry business with two vessels, will help fill in on the Bremerton-Seattle ferry route starting today as a temporary, passenger-only fix to the loss of one of the car vessels on the route.

The fix will accommodate the route while Washington State Ferries works to get another car ferry out of dry dock after the loss last week of the Yakima.

The two Victoria Express vessels will join the passenger-only Snohomish and the 124-car Kitsap on the route.

The Yakima was pulled on Thursday after damage to the hull from a collision with the breakwater in the Bremerton marina, said Susan Harris-Huether, customer information manager for Washington State Ferries.

“We were contacted yesterday and asked if we could help cover the runs,” said Victoria McDonald, spokeswoman for Victoria Express.

“We are open to these types of partnerships between public and private entities.”

Because the route normally has two car ferries, a third vessel, the Snohomish, which up until Saturday had operated on the Port Townsend-Keystone route, will also fill in on the route on the Yakima‘s schedule.

“Given the state that the ferry transportation agency is in right now, it is exciting that they are reaching out to local providers to help facilitate the runs during this time,” McDonald said.

“This is obviously a critical run, and seeing what happened with the Port Townsend-Keystone run being without service, it is obvious that being without service between Seattle and Bremerton could be quite a catastrophic loss.”

Neither McDonald nor either of the Washington State Ferries spokeswomen could say how much the contract was worth.

Victoria Express will run before and after the Snohomish — which is also a passenger-only vessel — to pick up extra passengers, said Hadley Greene, WSF spokeswoman.

The state ferry system will retrieve the Hyak, a 144-car ferry, from dry dock to serve the route by the end of the week.

McDonald said this partnership was a good testing ground for the potential for future partnerships during the Hood Canal Bridge replacement closure in May-June 2009.

“This will bring to the surface some of the issues that will be faced when the Hood Canal Bridge is out,” she said.

“We are certainly looking toward the future, and with partnerships in place, when the time comes, we’ll have options out there that have been set up ahead of time.”

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