Questions surround cost, design of new ferries

By Jerry Cornfield, Herald Writer

OLYMPIA – A Whidbey Island lawmaker is raising questions about the design, durability and cost of operating the state’s newest ferries between Coupeville and Port Townsend.

Rep. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, sent a letter this week to leaders of the state’s transportation department and Washington State Ferries asking why the boats list when empty, vibrate during travel and use more fuel than the larger Steel Electric vessels they replaced.

In the letter, she poses nearly two dozen questions about the Salish and Kennewick, the 64-car, 750-passenger boats in use on the route. The inquiry applies as well to the Chetzemoka, the first boat in this class used on the run, she said.

“Since the legislative session ended, I’ve had a number of conversations with a lot of different people about these issues,” she said Friday. “I’ve ridden the (Salish) and I saw firsthand the list. I experienced some of the vibration. When I saw these things first hand, I felt it was critical we had clear and transparent answers.”

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