Off-duty Edmonds police will no longer manage ferry traffic

The Dayton and Main Street (pictured here) at-grade railroad crossings are increasingly blocked by train traffic, cutting off community access to the waterfront, thwarting across-tracks emergency response, snarling ferry traffic, and hampering inter-modal passenger access between buses, trains and ferries. (Photo courtesy Tetra Tech).
Washington State Ferry traffic at the Main Street crossing will now be directed by ferry system employees.

Starting Thursday, Aug. 18, Edmonds residents will see a change in how ferry traffic is managed at the Dayton and Main Street crossings on Highway 104.

Off-duty Edmonds police officers will no longer be directing traffic at these two busy points in the ferry lines. Instead, that job will fall to Washington State Patrol troopers, in the case of the Dayton Street crossing, and Washington State Ferries employees at the Main Street crossing.

According to Lt. Troy Tomaras of the Washington State Patrol’s Homeland Security Division, the decision came down to saving money.

Since 2010, the State Patrol has been contracting with Puget Sound Executive Services to hire off-duty Edmonds police officers to handle traffic control at the Dayton and Main Street intersections. In 2015, that contract — for $143,000 — provided both traffic control and related law enforcement issues, such as motorists cutting into ferry lines.

The contract was due to expire in August, so the State Patrol “took the opportunity to apply Lean strategies to reduce spending at Edmonds,” Tomaras said, referring to the State of Washington’s initiative to promote more efficient government.

WSP conducted an in-depth study of the Edmonds traffic plan and duties, and determined it wasn’t necessary to have a law enforcement officer at the Main Street intersection, he said in an email. Instead, that intersection can be “adequately staffed” with a state ferry employee and/or flagger, “which will save the State Patrol between $75,000 and $100,000 per year.”

“State ferry employees have historically worked the Main Street intersection when officers are not present,” he said, noting that State Patrol officers will still assist with traffic control at the Dayton Street intersection prior to the ferry toll booths, “where line cutting and illegal turns consistently occur.”

State troopers will be present at the Dayton Street and Highway 104 intersection Fridays and Saturdays year-round to provide traffic control assistance, and will also be there on Thursdays during the higher traffic months of July and August.

“We will continue to monitor this for increases or reductions as time goes on,” Tomaras added.

The State Patrol will continue to provide a law enforcement presence by riding the ferry and conducting K-9 screening to assist with ferry security, he said. There will also be no change in the operation of what is known as the “Port Townsend” lane, the extra right- hand lane that is sometimes used to add capacity during heavy ferry traffic days.

According to Tomaras, the change at Edmonds is in line with what is happening at ferry terminals where state troopers already provide traffic control, including Mukilteo, Kingston and Bainbridge Island.

“The State Patrol is the primary law enforcement agency designated to support the state ferry system for traffic, security and law enforcement services,” he said, and works with the ferry system to ensure “the most appropriate and cost-effective use of resources.”

The traffic management plan for the Edmonds ferry has not changed, he added. “The only change is the elimination of the Main Street officer in an effort to better utilize taxpayers’ money.”

Tomaras noted that it is illegal to block a residential driveway or cut in line for vehicles waiting to board a Washington State Ferry. Commuters may report line cutters by calling 877-764-HERO (4376), and calling 9-1-1 should be reserved for emergencies. Commuters are also encouraged to inform the trooper working traffic about line cutters, Tomaras said.

“Edmonds police has been a great partner and we will continue to work with them closely to ensure the Edmonds community and ferry ridership needs are met,” he added.

In announcing the change in duties on Facebook Tuesday afternoon, Edmonds police said that Edmonds officers will still respond to emergency, in-progress calls related to ferry traffic “that present a public safety risk.”

— By Teresa Wippel

  1. Ferry Traffic : I’ve worked the past 46 years directing ferry traffic on Main and Dayton Streets. Local and ferry traffic have moved smoothly, safely and fairly through those intersections with the Edmonds Police Officers providing traffic control. We were there 7 days a week in summer and 6 days in winter. What a surprise to learn we are being replaced by some Thursdays, Friday and Saturday only.
    Today is my last day to put on my uniform and direct traffic. An end to an era.

  2. And we will miss your gloved waving hands, Bill. I always admired the job our “off duty” officers did with that in all weather to boot. Thanks to you Bill and the others. It won’t be the same.

  3. HERO Program; based on WSDOT website, it appears that “NO ONE” gets a citation when calling in violators to 1-877-764-HERO (4376). Stat’s listed for 1/1/13 thru 4/30/15: Plates reported=44,312; brochures mailed=29,834; letters mailed=963. All this indicates, is that HERO is a “FEEL GOOD” phone process for irritated motorists. If in fact WSF/WSP will save an estimated $75-$100K annually it should go directly back to the State general fund. Reportedly WSP plans on staffing Dayton St./SR-104 with “OFF-DUTY” troopers. Troopers est. salary ranges $68-$78K; based on an avg. of $73K their base hourly salary is $35.10; now multiply by 1.5 is $52.65 plus the rental/operational cost of their State vehicle. This has to be more than $60.00 an hour. Keep in mind seniority, longevity, education, job assignments &/or location are added to their base wages. Another question that should be answered is “will this OFF-DUTY assign increase their Retirement Benefits”?
    NOW, let’s consider that WSP is understaffed by an est. 150 positions. HOW MANY “OFF-DUTY” jobs are being handled by the “OVER WORKED” troopers? Does this show good management by WSP?
    NEXT, WSF/WSP had some hand in the specifications on the “contract” that Lt. Tomaras refers to as being too costly. If in fact that is true, then the management staff of WSF/WSP is solely responsibly for this “costly contract”. To receive even “less costly” services than proposed by WSP, it would seem “no-brainer” to continue “contract” services with a better/lower set of specification. The Cost of the “contract” that Lt. Tomaras refers to and ends 8/14/2016 is billed at an hourly wage of $30.00 per hour per officer or a total of $42.28 including overhead. There are no benefits paid to the officer’s under the expiring contract. This is already $10.72 hourly less than Lt. Tomaras is proposing for WSP troopers.
    After more than 40+ years of the Edmonds Police Officers’ Association (EPOA) coordinating officer’s to work at the WSF Edmonds Ferry Terminal, this a real “slap in the face”. WSP trooper’s, WSF Employee’s, Ferry Commuter’s and the EPOA are dedicated and loyal people that should not be subjected to this policy change. The citizens of Edmonds also deserve better. Shame on WSF/WSP/WSDOT upper management for allowing this to occur and worse if upper management isn’t totally aware of what at least one or more mid-managers seem to be able to accomplish.

  4. Thank you Bill Baker for your service. It is appreciated and honored by all of us.

    I am sorry that the Main Street traffic control is not going to be by trained law enforcement officers, however. Over the years I have seen potential problems in traffic management when ferry staff have been responsible for directing traffic. They tend to not notice traffic waiting on Main and/or Sunset. Just yesterday I saw a WSF employee wave pedestrians across Sunset and then indicate that the cars on Sunset should start moving. Thankfully, an alert driver who was waved to move saw the pedestrian approaching and waited until she had cleared the intersection. An injury could have happened had the driver followed the WSF staff directions.

    The police are trained for traffic control. WSF should be held accountable for the cost, and only Edmonds City Police or Washington State Patrol officers should be allowed to control traffic for the ferry at any time. No exceptions.

  5. Thank you Mr Baker. We so appreciated you being down there. We keep losing so many wonderful things about Edmonds…

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