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Marine Log

May 3, 2008

Washington State scraps plan to build 50-car ferry

Washington State continues to grapple with the problems of having a distinctly elderly ferry fleet--and being constrained to build replacement vessels in-state.

Last month, the Ferries Division of the Washington State Department of Transportation rejected a $26 million bid from Todd Pacific Shipyards to build a 50-car ferry. At the March 27 bid opening Todd was the sole project bidder. Its bid was higher than the WSDOT engineer's estimate of $16.8 million.

"The tab to taxpayers is too high. We will find solutions to bring down the construction costs," said Ferries Division Assistant Secretary David Moseley.

Now Gov. Chris Gregoire has announced that the state will move forward with construction of two 64-car Island Home style vessels and will not build a smaller 50-car vessel.

The 50-car Steilacoom II style was originally intended to fill the gap in service until the two Island Homes were built.

Now WSDOT has reached agreement with Pierce County to extend the lease on one of that county's ferries that it has been using to fill in since the aged Steel Electric class vessels had to be withdrawn from service, essentially because beneath their paint their hulls had deteriorated beyond repair.

The current situation is that WSDOT is working toward building five new ferries-- three 144-car vessels and two new 64-car Island Home style vessels. The design and construction of five boats nearly simultaneously is a first for the state's ferry system in more than 30 years. The state will advance the advertisements of the Island Home-style construction to July 2008. The first vessel will be completed by spring 2010, with the second vessel following in fall 2010.

"I have asked WSDOT to evaluate the potential of an accelerated delivery schedule," said Gregoire. "We want to get these boats on the water as quickly as possible"

The Island Home is a 255 ft double ended ferry operated by the the Woods Hole, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Steamship Authority. It has served the 7 mile route between Woods Hole and Martha’s Vineyard since March 5, 2007 and was constructed by VT Halter Marine Inc., of Moss Point, MS, to a design by the Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle, Wash.

Because of state law, WSDOT won't have the option of asking VT Halter Marine to bid, but will have to use a Washington State yard--or combination of yards.

It will be interesting to see the number that comes out of the bid envelope or envelopes. Stay tuned.

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