Gregoire plan: 3 new ferries
Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed spending $100 million to replace four aging Steel-Electric Class ferries with three new boats. The governor said $64...
Seattle Times staff reporter
Gov. Christine Gregoire has proposed spending $100 million to replace four aging Steel-Electric Class ferries with three new boats.
The governor said $64 million would come from $350 million set aside for construction of other boats, and $36 million would be from money appropriated for the Mukilteo ferry terminal.
The design and construction of the boats would be on an expedited schedule. Gregoire said she hopes they could be built in 14 months.
Meanwhile, Pierce County has agreed to loan one of its boats to Washington State Ferries, beginning in January, to resume car service between Keystone and Port Townsend.
"This was an emergency situation, and we're able to be of assistance," said Ron Klein, aide to Pierce County Executive John Ladenberg.
Under the arrangement, Washington State Ferries will have to provide an emergency backup boat for the Pierce County ferry, the 13-year-old Christine Anderson, and will pay an undetermined amount of money to lease the boat.
Officials say it will take until January to put the ferry into service on the run after making sure it can operate in the narrow, shallow Keystone harbor.
The governor also announced Thursday that passenger-only ferry service has been established between Port Townsend and Seattle. The service would run until early January and will offer four round trips a day.
Gregoire said there was really no other option than to replace the four 80-year-old Steel-Electric boats, the Quinault, the Illahee, the Klickitat and the Nisqually.
"Ferries are a simple extension of our roads," Gregoire said Thursday. "It needs as much attention as any road or bridge." In fact, the Port Townsend-to-Keystone ferry is considered an extension of Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway.
"Just imagine what would have been the consequences if we'd not removed them from service and tragedy had occurred." Gregoire said.
On Monday, a Joint Transportation Committee made up of influential state legislators recommended that the four Steel-Electric ferries be scrapped, not fixed.
The four Steel Electrics were sidelined Nov. 20 when Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond determined the hulls were in such bad shape, with holes and pitting, that she didn't feel comfortable keeping them on the water. The state had planned to fix at least three of the four ferries at a cost of about $4 million each. But late last week a further inspection of the Quinault, now in dry dock at Todd Shipyards, revealed more extensive pitting and corrosion than expected, driving up repair costs.
Ferry officials said that after peeling 70 percent of the ferry's hull paint, workers discovered nearly half of the boat's steel hull needed to be replaced.
That news prompted the legislators to recommend scrapping the boats.
Whidbey Island boatbuilder Matt Nichols has said he, with a consortium of two other boat builders, could build a new boat for Keystone in about a year for $20 million. He already has built one for Pierce County.
But Gregoire said the job of building the new boats will be open to any Washington shipyard. Elliott Bay Design, which designed the Pierce County boats, is being asked to come up with a design for the new state boats within two months, said Hammond. After that, there will be a four-week advertisement for bids for the boats.
To build the new 54-car Keystone boats, Gregoire proposed taking $64 million from the nearly $350 million already approved to build four new 144-car ferries. That could mean the state will build only three new boats.
Meanwhile, the passenger ferry Snohomish, which was running between Port Townsend and Keystone, will instead run between Port Townsend and Seattle until early January at a cost of about $10,000 a day. And the state contracted with a private operator, Puget Sound Express, of Port Townsend, to operate the Keystone passenger run for $5,000 for a 16-hour day.
The run to Seattle will take about an hour and a half, said ferry officials, and will cost the same as the Puget Sound passenger fare, or $6.70 per round trip.
State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said she was pleased by the governor's decision. "We've just begun to address the real concern about our boats," she said. "The more we look, the more disturbed we get." She said she's certain the Legislature will approve Gregoire's plan for the $100 million.
Susan Gilmore: 206-464-2054 or email@example.com
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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