We need better ferry service | Letters

In [The Journal’s] fine research article on our ferry crisis, you said that the ferry lines on Lopez were “backed up several miles,” which (if true) would stretch back most of the way to Lopez Village. This kind of crisis should help us face some economic realities:

First, you said that three of our four current island-service ferries are now 50 to 58 years old. In a normal transportation business – airlines, trucking, shipping, railroads or cars – newer vehicles would replace older vehicles before they broke down, but you said our legislature “does not want another ferry to be built until there is a long-range plan set. The plan is due in January 2019… meaning it is likely a new ferry will not be completed until the mid-2020s.” A normal business would act a lot faster than that.

Secondly, the state blames budget constraints, but they choose to pay 66 percent higher prices than necessary. You say British Columbia imported 145-car ferries from Poland for $79 million vs. our $131 million for a 144-car ferry, due to a law which “protects Washington jobs” at a single company capable of building big boats. We don’t require all trucks and cars on our roads to be built in Washington, so why ferry boats?

Trade protectionism doesn’t work. If “Buy American” makes sense (to Trump and others), then I suppose “Buy Washington” logically follows, so let’s raise tariffs against potatoes from Iowa or micro-brews from Oregon. However, “saving jobs” in one industry or company usually eliminates jobs in other industries.

Monopolies don’t work, either. They lead to complacency. So please explain why ferry building and ferry service are state-supported monopolies. Wider competition would likely deliver more reliable service.

Gary Alexander

Lopez Island