Monday, April 13, 1998

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
A Ford Island ferry makes its way across Pearl Harbor with
a view of the future in its wake--the Ford Island Bridge.

Farewell to
Ford Isle ferries

With a new bridge in place,
those who live or work on the island
will no longer have to work
around ferry schedules

By Gregg K. Kakesako


FOR decades since World War II, the only lifeline to the 450-acre island in the middle of Pearl Harbor has been the ferry.

The more than 45 naval families and 3,000 civilian workers who live and work on Ford Island depend on the ferry, synchronizing their daily routines to its schedule.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Spencer Layne, a military photographer, gazes at the new
Ford Island bridge that will soon open, replacing
the ferry he is riding.

But on Wednesday, all that will come to a halt as the Navy dedicates and opens the $78 million, nearly 1-mile-long Adm. Bernard "Chick" Clarey Bridge and retires the Ford Island ferry fleet.

The bridge, named after the man who was commander in chief of the Pacific Fleet when he retired from the Navy in 1972, will connect Ford Island to Kamehameha Highway at the eastbound Salt Lake Boulevard intersection.

"When the bridge opens," says retired Navy Master Chief Jim Taylor, "it will free me to a lot of things I can't do now ... like going to lunch without having to take an hour and a half off."

Taylor, 59, retired from the Navy after 33 years of service and six years ago went to work as programs officer for the Navy brig, which was relocated to Ford Island four years ago.

"I enjoy the (ferry) ride," said Taylor, who commutes daily.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
The Ford Island ferry passes the solemn
USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor.
The bridge is beyond the memorial.

"It's really not that bad. I have to fight the H-1 traffic every morning from Makakilo and the break is nice."

The Navy brig is just one of a dozen military activities now located on the island. Its biggest component with 350 military and civilian employees is the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, which handles the military's bills in Hawaii.

Chief Warrant Officer Mark Keck, Pearl Harbor's water transportation officer for the past three years, said he faces the closing of the ferry service with "mixed feelings."

"It's sad to see it go away," said Keck, "since it's a piece of history. It's the buffer to the outside world.

"But the opening of the bridge means convenience. You don't have to center your life around a ferry schedule."

Many of the residents use the 12-minute ferry ride to socialize and to catch up on what is going on in the close-knit Navy community, Keck said.

Ford Island neighbors plan to show their appreciation for the ferry's crews with a party as part of the "last ferry ride."

"The daily ferry ride also gave you a chance to collect your thoughts and plan your day," Keck added.

Besides shuttling Ford Island residents and workers, the ferry is the only means to carry supplies and repair crews to the island.

Two vessels have kept the ferry operation on schedule for nearly 22 hours daily.

Ford Island has a checkered,
colorful past

By Gregg K. Kakesako, Star-Bulletin


Accessible only by air or by boat, Ford Island is surrounded by a mystique reflecting its past and the attack on Pearl Harbor 57 years ago.

Its empty armories, spiraling air tower and rusted ships, however, soon will be replaced as the Navy begins an ambitious 12-year plan which it hopes will mean more housing, a Navy museum complex and tourist attraction, and a hotel.

Ancient Hawaiians called Ford Island Moku-umeume -- the isle of attraction. It is named after Dr. Seth Ford, a Boston physician who practiced medicine at the Hawaiian Insane Asylum and the U.S. Marine Hospital from 1861-1866.

When Ford died, the island was sold to the Honolulu Plantation. Crops of watermelons and sugar cane covered the island before the U.S. Army purchased it during World War I for $236,000 from the Li Estate. It was transferred to the Navy in 1923.

At the height of World War II more than 40,000 people lived and worked on the 450-acre island.

Fifty pre-World War II plantation-style homes still dot the island. Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and George Bush were guests there.

The Navy's plan would increase by more than 50 percent Pearl Harbor's land space.

Navy planners say the island's residential and daytime population of 3,000 could double under the proposed development. The Navy and the Army now maintain about a dozen different facilities on Ford Island, including the brig.

The $500 million project, which needs congressional approval to establish the Ford Island Development Activity, involves a unique military-civilian partnership.

"The change would allow the Navy to deal more directly with the business community," said Sanford Yuen, Pearl Harbor's deputy engineer.

The Navy hopes to lease 100 acres on the north side of the island to a developer who would build units and collect rent from 600 Navy families.

The south side of the island would continue to house existing Navy activities. The buffer zone in the middle of the island, now the site of Luke Field, would be developed into a large open air park.

Other provisions of the master plan unveiled last year include quarters for 500 to 1,000 enlisted sailors and officers; a Navy Lodge, a military hotel, on the west end of the island, and a $50 million Navy museum complex, Navy Square, complete with retail shops and restaurants. One of its anchor points would be the battleship USS Missouri, which it to be towed here from the Pacific Northwest this summer.

The ferry is shut down for only 2-1/2 hours each day to allow its crew of four to perform maintenance chores.

Two vessels provide the service:

bullet The "Waa Hele Honoa" (YFB-83), which translated from Hawaiian means "canoe go to land," was pressed into service on March 3, 1961.

It is the older and the larger of the two vessels at 181 feet, and can carry 750 people and 33 vehicles.

bullet The "Moko Holo Hele" (YFB-87), which means "boat go back and forth," was acquired on May 25, 1970, for $1.1. million. It is 162 feet long and has a capacity of 42 vehicles and 750 people.

The Moko Holo Hele was the only ferry equipped with a toilet, but it was later removed in favor of more storage space and because it was seldom used, since the run to Ford Island was only 1.6 miles.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
The ferry approaches Ford Island.

The Waa Hele Honoa was originally called the Delaware Valley and was built in 1949 for use on the Delaware River. The Navy acquired it in 1959 for $274,000 and shipped it to Pearl Harbor two years later.

Keck said once the ferry operation ceases, both vessels will be sealed up and stored at Pearl Harbor's inactive ship facility in Middle Loch.

Both the USS Missouri Museum Association and the Maritime Museum, as well as the Washington state ferry system, have expressed interest in purchasing the ferries, Keck said.

Although the ferry operations will cease Wednesday, Keck said that Pearl Harbor's water transportation command will still operate its fleet of six tour boats and 12 smaller, 50-foot "gray" boats, which provide shuttle service between Ford Island and various points in Pearl Harbor.


Ford Island Bridge

Bullet FIRST CROSSING: Wednesday
Bullet COST: $78 million
Bullet LENGTH: 4,700 feet
Bullet WIDTH: 46 feet
Bullet FEATURES: 930-foot-long pontoon section, two vehicle lanes, bike path, sidewalk
Bullet PRIMARY CONTRACTOR: Dillingham-Manson
Bullet GROUND BROKEN: Jan. 10, 1996

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