Fast ferry service could return by May 1

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) -- Passenger-only fast-ferry service between here and Bremerton will not resume until May 1 at the earliest, and then with only one boat running at full speed, Washington State Ferries said Friday.

The two fast ferries were cleared to resume full-speed operation after the state Supreme Court on March 17 lifted an injunction ordering them slowed to prevent beach erosion in front of waterfront homes.

Ferry officials initially said rapid service could resume in early April, but on Friday officials said the speedup would be delayed as a scientific team rushed to wrap up studies on beach impact.

''The scientists want to make sure they have good baseline data before speeds are increased'' in Rich Passage, state ferries Director Paul Green said.

Researchers are studying wave action in the passage as part of a state review launched following the Supreme Court's move to send the case back to Superior Court for further proceedings on the environmental challenges brought by property owners.

''We have made sure the scientific team is aware of the urgency,'' Green said.

At 34 knots, the high-speed ferries can make the crossing in about 30 minutes, or half the time it takes on larger car ferries. The injunction to slow the ferries through Rich Passage had added about 15 minutes to the trip each way.

Green said the ferry system hoped to have one passenger-only boat running at its normal 34 knots by May 1, with the second boat to follow a month later.

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