Time for a ferry sys­tem re­view

NORMA SMITH AND LARRY SEAQUIST

The Daily Herald - - OPINION -

Ac­count­abil­ity and truth telling — virtues in po­lite so­ci­ety — ex­tend to govern­ment. Or so hope the tax­pay­ers.

Pre­ventable de­sign headaches (with “pre­ventable” dou­ble-un­der­lined) are damp­en­ing re­cep­tion of Wash­ing­ton’s new­est ferry, the 144-car Tok­i­tae, which be­gan the Muk­il­teo-Clin­ton run Mon­day. Tok­i­tae is a Coast Sal­ish greet­ing mean­ing “nice day, pretty col­ors,” not be con­fused with a bas­tardiza­tion, “nice day, watch the damn ramps.”

On Tues­day, a mi­nor hy­draulic leak side­lined the Tok­i­tae’s first round trip of the day. It was a man­age­able set­back. But what about the un­der­car­riage scrap­ing of ve­hi­cle with low clear­ances, a prob­lem flagged by Reps. Norma Smith, R-Clin­ton, and Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Har­bor, months ago? Smith and Seaquist re­port that some of these cars get bel­lied as they reach the up­per park­ing deck.

“We were sim­ply mis­led. If the proper anal­y­sis had been done, this would never have hap­pened,” Smith told The Herald.

Deck hands can nav­i­gate the load­ing and un­load­ing of cars to de­ter­mine which ve­hi­cles might have trou­ble, ac­cord­ing to the in­terim fer­ries’ chief, Capt. Ge­orge Ca­pacci. While it’s not a pub­lic safety con­cern — Wash­ing­ton fer­ries have a stel­lar track record — it is em­blem­atic of a cul­ture of ar­ro­gance, if not in­com­pe­tence, among WSF’s up­per man­age­ment.

Zero will change un­til there’s a com­pre­hen­sive re­view and ferry muck­a­mucks are held ac­count­able (that in­cludes giv­ing some the heave-ho).

Re­gard­ing the Tok­i­tae’s de­sign, Ca­pacci told The Herald’s Jerry Corn­field, “I do not think it’s a fa­tal flaw. I think it’s one of those groom­ing is­sues you deal with when you bring a new ves­sel into ser­vice.”

When did “groom­ing” mi­grate from the vet’s of­fice to bu­reau­cratic lingo? Af­ter get­ting el­bowed, WSF put in a change or­der to cre­ate a smoother ramp on the two re­main­ing Olympic-class boats un­der con­struc­tion.

We’ve seen this movie be­fore. A cou­ple years ago, Smith de­manded ac­tion on the WSF’s new 64-car ves­sels, which leaned when empty. Af­ter the state poured tons of bal­last to steady the boats, fuel use dropped sig­nif­i­cantly. Smith and Seaquist de­serve an award for their bird-dog­ging.

They also de­serve ac­tion on their June 27 let­ter to Gov. Jay Inslee, re­quest­ing the ap­point­ment of a re­view panel to noo­dle WSF op­er­a­tions and la­bor man­age­ment and present its rec­om­men­da­tions to the new ferry di­rec­tor.

The be­hav­ior of up­per man­age­ment at the WSF is not ac­cept­able, Smith said. Amen to that.

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