Haugen excited about future of transportation

Mary Margaret Haugen talks with Brenda Ames of Pacific Northwest Bank after speaking at the Business After Hours mixer Thursday. - Jennifer Conway
Mary Margaret Haugen talks with Brenda Ames of Pacific Northwest Bank after speaking at the Business After Hours mixer Thursday.
— image credit: Jennifer Conway

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen received a warm welcome Thursday from South Whidbey residents, and was eager to discuss her accomplishments in the latest state session.

Though the state Senate is on its summer hiatus, Haugen was still working on legislative issues in her head last week. Her trip to island only solidified her feelings on at least one issue -- a proposed step-up in security aboard Washington State ferries.

On her way to a meeting sponsored by the Freeland Chamber of Commerce Thursday, Haugen waited almost two hours in a ferry line in Mukilteo and showed up 45 minutes late to a Business After Hours mixer.

After that experience, she said she understood and sympathized with what it is like to be a Whidbey Island resident. And, she said, she can imagine how much worse life in the ferry lanes will get with increased security.

Some of the proposed security ideas could include searching selected areas of the vessel prior to its sailing, performing routine security patrols, additional closed circuit monitoring of passenger areas and screening some vehicles prior to loading.

Haugen -- who is the ranking Democrat on the Senate's transportation committee -- described proposed Coast Guard ferry security initiatives as "offensive" and "very, very ridiculous" during a short speech at the get together.

Haugen said that as she sat in the ferry line, she envisioned how vehicle searches and high security measures would only impede the process further.

"I see it as a roadblock," said Haugen.

According to a Washington State Patrol review of National Maritime Security Interim Rules published July 8, the purpose of the rules -- proposed by the federal Department of Homeland Security -- is to increase the level of maritime security in national ports. Their intent is to dissuade people or groups that would seek to disrupt the shipping.

Haugen said she felt the rules were not meant for ferries, but more for cruise ships. She felt such rules would have a huge, negative impact on tourism to Whidbey Island.

Haugen was more optimistic about the future of the Washington State Ferry system. She said four new San Juan class ferries are being designed, one of which she hopes to see on the Clinton/Mukilteo route.

In a interview Tuesday, Haugen said the Clinton/Mukilteo route was the second-busiest run in the state, a status she feels warrants a new, larger ferry. The first San Juan ferry is expected to go into service in 2005 or 2006.

Another exciting topic for Haugen at the mixer was the Mukilteo landing waterfront development project. With plans in the works for a new ferry terminal in Mukilteo, Haugen said getting a third ferry running on the Whidbey Island route would become possible.

The third ferry for the Clinton/Mukilteo route would help to equal out the service slightly. But in a recent senate meeting, some senators had wanted to nix the Mukilteo ferry landing completely and instead sent Whidbey ferry commuters to Edmonds.

"Can you believe that?" she said to her audience Thursday.

The new Mukilteo Landing is planned to bring together six modes of transportation on the Mukilteo waterfront, including a future Sound Transit commuter rail station and a link with Amtrak.

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