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