Some long or low vehicles that take the car ramps on Washington’s newest ferry bottom out and scrape due to what two lawmakers are calling a design flaw that ferry officials ignored.
The problem is occurring on the Tokitae, which entered service Monday on the busy Mukilteo-Clinton run between terminals about 20 miles north of Seattle and the south end of Whidbey Island.
There was some delay as the crew sorted vehicles between the side ramps and the main car deck, said ferry spokeswoman Marta Coursey.
“Crews have to adjust the loading procedure based on size and width of cars,” she said.
The ferry continued its rough start Tuesday when a small hydraulic leak forced cancellation of its first round- trip.
Some other ferries also require extra attention from the crew as they direct vehicles either straight ahead or up ramps to a second level, Coursey said.
The problem on the Tokitae has led interim state ferries director Capt. George Capacci to ask Vigor Shipyards in Seattle to make design changes to ramps on two other 144-car ferries under construction.
The development annoyed state Reps. Norma Smith, R-Clinton, and Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who said senior ferry system managers told them in March that their worries about the ramps were unwarranted.
“We were simply misled. If the proper analysis had been done, this would never have happened,” Smith told The Daily Herald.
Washington State Ferries “must be held accountable,” the two wrote in a letter to Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on June 27. “To ensure improvements in the department, we are strongly advising a major overhaul of upper management in the ferries division in order to restore public trust.”
Smith and Seaquist have asked Inslee to appoint an independent panel of experts to investigate ferry operations.
Any leadership changes would have to wait until a new ferries director is hired, Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said.
Capacci told the newspaper that he put in a change order to create a smoother ramp on the Samish, which is already on the water, and the third as-yet unnamed vessel on which work has not yet started.
“I do not think it’s a fatal flaw,” he said of the Tokitae design. “I think it’s one of those grooming issues you deal with when you bring a new vessel into service.”
The Tokitae cost $144 million as part of a three-vessel deal with Vigor that totaled $388 million.