Citing environmental concerns, the Washington State Department of Transportation announced new system-wide ferry routes today.
“Holy crap,” said state Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond, “it turns out that the Puget Sound has a lot of wildlife!” She explained that the new routes will allow ferries to avoid disturbing sensitive natural habitats, with the minor side effect of quadrupling most crossing times.
As an example of the new routes, Hammond presented an updated map of the Seattle to Bainbridge Island route (seen at right).
The old route was a direct 8-mile run that took a total of 35 minutes. However, the cost of the convenience of the seemingly simple route was a heavy toll on the environment, as the 8-mile crossing passed through between fifteen and twenty-eight critical ecological areas, depending on the tides.
The new optimized route avoids the orca mating zones, algae growth sanctuaries, otter recreation sectors, and dozens of other delicate environmental danger zones that were previously being devastated on a daily basis with the poorly-planned former routes. The new 25-mile route will have a crossing time of approximately three hours and fifteen minutes.
In addition to reworking the routes, the ferries will also be required to reduce their speed to approximately half of what they previously traveled at, in order to eliminate wakes that would spread for miles across the sound, disturbing resting seagulls, ducks, and loons.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish with these new, sound-friendly routes,” Hammond beamed. “What’s good for Puget Sound wildlife is good for everyone,” she said, “I urge ferry commuters to remember that fact as they adjust to their new schedule of getting up at 2:00 AM to make it to work on time.”
Commuters and environmental activists alike were pleased with the new move, although some worried that it may not go far enough toward protecting Puget Sound wildlife. Susan Myers, who commutes daily from Whidbey Island to Seattle, wondered “are we really doing everything we can to prevent even the slightest disturbance of the fragile Puget Sound ecosystem?”
Along with the announcement of the new routes, the Department of Transportation also revealed that they are putting an end the practice of ferries dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into the sound, and that they will begin using conventional motor oil in the ferry engines, instead of the previous standard of baby seal oil.