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Ferry floats through Ballard, bound for repairs

It’s a tight squeeze whenever one of Washington’s state ferries needs to take the trip to repair docks in Lake Union.

The Elwha traveled through the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks – better known as the Ballard Locks – early Monday morning as many Seattleites were gearing up to start their day.

Washington State Ferries tweeted a video time-lapse showing the process of having tugboats guide the much larger vessel from the Puget Sound to Lake Union.

The ferry is as wide as a six-lane highway, and the locks aren’t much bigger!

The Elwha is scheduled to spend weeks in dry dock for maintenance on its steel deck.  In the meantime, the Kitsap will take over Elwha’s trips along the Anacortes/San Juan routes.  It means getting a spot on the ferry will be even more difficult than usual, since the Kitsap is significantly smaller than the Elwha.  WSF says the Kaleetan was initially supposed to take over Elwha’s route, but the Kaleetan is undergoing maintenance work too!

Much of Washington’s state ferry fleet is aging.  The Elwha is more than 50 years old – older even than the Hyak, which retired just last month.

Unlike the Hyak, WSF says the Elwha was rebuilt in the early 1990s.  WSF says many of its boats are aging out of the fleet, even as more and more passengers flock to the area.  It’s asking for billions of dollars in funding over the next two decades to buy new ferries and continue operating the ones in service.

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