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WSF announces long-range plans

The public will have several chances this month to comment on a plan that will shape the next 25 years of state ferry service.

“There are some pretty substantive proposals put forth here,” said Ray Deardorf, planning director for Washington State Ferries. “We’re adding service to some routes, keeping some routes (the same), and restructuring others.”

For example, Deardorf said significant restructuring is envisioned for the Triangle Route, which serves Southworth, Vashon and Fauntleroy.

The current draft plan WSF will be discussing at several public meetings has Southworth vehicle traffic being redirected to downtown Seattle.

“That move is because of terminal constraints at Fauntleroy,” Deardorf said, explaining that ridership is steadily increasing beyond the dock’s capacity. “It’s a small terminal (already), and we don’t feel we will ever be allowed to improve it.”

The WSF long-range plan calls for “splitting” the Triangle route completely in 2014, sending both Southworth drivers and walk-on passengers directly to Colman Dock. To accommodate this change, the plan calls for adding a second vessel slip at the Southworth dock and a fourth vessel slip at Colman Dock.

Vashon riders will continue to use the Fauntleroy Terminal, as two boats will continue on that route, and a passenger shuttle will run from Southworth to Vashon.

While not all vehicles leaving Southworth are necessarily headed toward downtown Seattle, Deardorf said that based on recent passengers surveys, this was the best compromise.

“We feel we’ve got a pretty good handle on the distribution (of drivers),” he said, “and it will move some people closer and some further away. But we feel it’s a reasonable solution.”

Deardorf said the changes are needed due to the projected increases in ridership, particularly those walking on boats. WSF is predicting a 70 percent overall increase in passengers, with vehicle traffic increasing by 40 percent, and walk-on traffic tripling in numbers.

Deardorf said after comments are collected from the public, WSF officials will meet with local and regional councils, and other government officials.

“They will be helping shape the final plan,” he said. “This is not final, this is a proposal, and presented as one way to address what we see as likely increases in ridership.”

Other parts of the proposal include:

n Seattle-Vashon Passenger-Only Ferry: Continue to operate the service at current levels until mid-2009, when another operator is expected to take over.

n Seattle-Bremerton: Having three vessels serving this route by 2015.

n Point Defiance-Tahlequah: Replacing the current vessel on this route by a larger one in 2015, accommodating traffic increases until at least 2030.

For more information on the ridership projections, the meetings schedule and plans for each WSF route, please visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/planning/.

Local meetings are scheduled at John Sedgwick Junior High School on April 19 at 6 p.m., and at Mountain View Middle School in Bremerton on April 20 at 6:30 p.m.

Meetings will also be held at Fauntleroy Hall on April 18 at 6 p.m., and at Vashon Island High School on April 12 at 6:30 p.m.

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