Record file — The 144-car ferry Tokitae was pulled out of service earlier this month for a required inspection. The Clinton-to-Mukilteo route has since been served by two smaller 124-car ferries. To combat the loss of capacity and the coming busy Fourth of July weekend, the state is adding extra runs July 3-4.

State adds sailings on Clinton route for busy Fourth of July weekend

To mitigate the loss of the Tokitae and ease the busy Fourth of July weekend, the state is adding additional runs to the Clinton-to-Mukilteo ferry route.

Sailings will be added on Monday and Tuesday, July 3-4. The schedule is as follows: On Monday, an extra sailings will depart from Clinton at 9 p.m. and return at 9:30 p.m.; 10 p.m. and return at 10:30 p.m.; and at 1:30 a.m. and return at 2 a.m.

On Tuesday, the run will operate on the Sunday sailing schedule.

Fourth of July is one of the busiest travel holidays for the state Department of Transportation, Ferries Division. About 430,000 ferry passengers used the ferry service in 2016, the agency reported in a Wednesday news release. It’s expecting another busy weekend this year.

“We’re off to a massive summer start… waits at Edmond’s Kingston have been up to three hours long,” said Ian Sterling, a spokesman for the agency. “We’re seeing that system-wide.”

Recent waits on the Clinton route have exceeded two hours. Part of the problem is the larger of the run’s two boats — the 144-car Tokitae — was pulled from service on June 12 for a federally mandated two-year inspection.

Amy Scarton, assistant secretary for Washington State Ferries, said it couldn’t be avoided.

“We want to thank riders in advance for their patience. This was the only time we were able to squeeze the Tokitae in for its inspection to make sure it’s available for the rest of the summer,” she said, in the news release. “Not only is there limited availability for these inspections, but the work must be coordinated with the scheduled maintenance of the other 21 ferries in the fleet.”

In an interview with The Record, Sterling echoed that, saying the agency can’t simply choose to book the inspection before or after the holiday weekend; drydocks are booked up and the requirements offer little flexibility of when inspections must be completed.

“It’s unfortunate that it fell on this weekend, but it went into service on this weekend two years ago,” he said.

Some riders have complained that the Tokitae wasn’t replaced by the Chimacum, another 144-car boat, but rather another 124-car ferry. Sterling said the larger passenger capacity of the Tokitae was the deciding factor, that it was needed on the Seattle Bremerton run.

The Chimacum and Tokitae are new state ferries and meet modern requirements. He said the rest of the fleet is outdated, and not “fully life-rafted.” The result is the older boats can only carry their full complement of passengers if another ferry is running simultaneously on the same route; one can back the other up in an emergency.

When the runs go down to one-boat service in the evening, however, they can only shuttle half their rated capacity. For example, a 1,200 passenger boat can only carry 600 passengers.

The Chimacum and Tokitae and fully life-rafted and don’t have the problem, which means they can carry all 1,500 passengers the boats are rated for whether they are operating in tandem or solo.

It was enough of an issue this year that walk-on passengers were being left in Seattle when a big event, such as a sport game, occurred.

“That was happening fairly regularly,” he said.

The state is working to fully life-raft the entire fleet, a process that should be complete within two years. Sterling added that while it’s not an idea situation for Clinton, the busiest motor vehicle route in the system, the route is scheduled to get the final 144-car ferry, the Suquamish, in 2018.

“Fifty percent of the new class are going to your route… no other route can claim that,” he said.

The Clinton run isn’t the only run that will get additional sailings over the weekend. Visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/news/2017/06/28/extra-ferry-service-and-special-schedules-planned-independence-day-travel for a full list.

The Tokitae is scheduled to return to Clinton on July 10.

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