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Officers will no longer direct traffic at Fauntleroy ferry terminal
In a move that caught many commuters by surprise, the financially strapped Washington State Patrol last week stopped providing officers to manage traffic at the Fauntleroy ferry terminal in West Seattle.
Starting on Sunday, the second day of Vashon’s bustling Strawberry Festival, drivers getting off of ferries had to merge onto Fauntleroy Way S.W. on their own, without a State Patrol cadet holding traffic to make the process easier and faster.
Cadets also no longer sort traffic headed to the Fauntleroy toll booths. Drivers will now be directed into the proper lanes for departure by Washington State Ferries (WSF) tollbooth attendants.
State ferry and State Patrol officials say they expect the changes will create congestion during the busiest commute times.
“We’ve had to make a tough choice between federally mandated security efforts and traffic control,” said Capt. Mark Thomas, commander of WSP’s Homeland Security Division. “Our first priority has to be safety and security. Drivers will now have to be guided by common courtesy and the rules of the road.”
What’s more, according to state ferry officials, drivers may notice ferries departing the West Seattle terminal without a full load. The Fauntleroy terminal provides service to both Vashon and Southworth, and sometimes drivers queued along the street for one destination block access for those trying to reach the other. Previously, if a departing boat had available space, cadets would walk along Fauntleroy Way, find blocked drivers and move them up to the tollbooths. That service also will no longer take place.
“We will miss that service,” said Steve Rodgers, director of operations for WSF. “WSP provided a great customer service and made the most efficient use of a valuable state resource.”
The cadet service was among a number of cuts required by a budget reduction at the State Patrol for the next biennium. State ferry officials say they’ll monitor the situation closely to determine impacts and possibly make adjustments.
State ferry officials have explored a number of options, including using their own staff at the intersection or installing a light. “For various reasons none have worked out,” Dwight Hutchinson, WSF’s terminal operations manager, wrote in an email to ferry-service advocates on Vashon.
Some kind of traffic management, first by the City of Seattle and then by the State Patrol, has been provided at the busy Fauntleroy terminal for at least a decade. Lt. Mark Brogan, assistant commander to Thomas, said WSP lost nine positions in the last budget round, forcing the state to end the service.
“Like other state agencies, we faced tough cuts,” he said.
Both the State Patrol and ferry officials are concerned, he added. “We know this will have an impact.”