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State official visits Nichols for ferry talk

A visit from a representative of Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries may mean good news for the South End’s largest private employer.

David Moseley, assistant secretary of the state Department of Transportation, visited Nichols Brothers boatyard in Freeland last week.

Matt Nichols said that there was discussion about the new Island Home class ferries the state hopes to build, and Nichols said he hopes that will mean more work for the South End boatyard.

The state will be building the two new ferries to replace the Steel Electric class ferries that have been retired on the Keystone/Port Townsend run.

“We have a very good shot at becoming a subcontractor to Todd Shipyard in Seattle for that project,” said Nichols, the former CEO of the company who now works in sales and marketing for the shipyard.

Nichols said the contract will be awarded in August, and construction will begin in November. The new ferries are expected to be finished in about two and a half years.

“We have worked with Todd before. Last time we were the main contractor on the Steilacoom, and Todd was the sub,” Nichols said.

Nichols said Moseley is getting to know small shipyards in the area.

“We had a nice chat and I took him out into the yard to give him a few pointers about how small shipyards work,” Nichols said.

Later this summer, the Department of Transportation will begin a separate procurement process for two more ferries that will carry between 60 to 80 cars. The new vessels could be in service by June 2010 and December 2010, respectively.

New 144-car ferries will also be under construction by next year, and three 144-car vessels will be used system-wide.

The first 144-car ferry is expected to be in service by early 2011.

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