Keep road clear while ferry offloads | Editorial

We’re going to cut to the chase on this one.

Pedestrians and vehicles must stop moving in front of vehicles as they drive off the ferry in Friday Harbor.

Stop. Period.

It’s a safety hazard. It slows the offloading of the ferry, knocking the rest of the ferries off schedule. This costs money.

We don’t know of any other ferry-served community where pedestrians and vehicles are allowed to cut in front of moving vehicles. Sure, there hasn’t been a serious incident. But there shouldn’t have to be one for us to do something.

Hundreds of thousands of dollars – and thousands of hours of planning and studying and wrangling — have been invested in trying to improve the speed with which the ferry offloads in Friday Harbor. One time-saver studied ad nauseum was closing Front Street to pedestrians and vehicles while the ferry is offloading. This was enforced sporadically. Now it’s not enforced at all. We don’t know why. At this point, we don’t care.

Here’s our recommendation: WSF should install a gate arm system at Front and East streets. The gate arms would be activated remotely by a ferry worker when the ferry pulls in. The gate arms would keep vehicles from going onto Front Street until the ferry is finished offloading.

Also, the town should improve the entrance to the Front Street sidewalk — in front of the Doctor’s Office, Friday’s Crabhouse, and the Bluewater Grill — so pedestrians walking off the ferry are visually directed there, instead of onto Front Street.

We believe that in a short time, drivers and pedestrians will realize that Front and East streets is to be avoided when the ferry comes in, and they will adjust their travels accordingly. Right now, all they know is this: Take your chances. That’s not right. And it’s not safe.

“Welcome to the traffic jam,” a ferry worker said while cars drove off a Sunday afternoon ferry in Friday Harbor. “It takes longer to offload the ferry than it does to get here.”

An exaggeration, for sure. But a justified frustration as well.

WSF and town need to keep pedestrians and vehicles off of Front Street while ferries are offloading. And they need to do it now.

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