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UPDATE | State to build Island Home ferries, senator says

Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, briefs members of the Island County Council of Governments at its meeting today in Coupeville. Haugen said the state has agreed to build the Island Home ferry to serve the Keystone-Port Townsend route. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, briefs members of the Island County Council of Governments at its meeting today in Coupeville. Haugen said the state has agreed to build the Island Home ferry to serve the Keystone-Port Townsend route.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

COUPEVILLE — State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said state officials have agreed to build a new ferry for the Keystone-Port Townsend run.

Haugen, chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the state will build the Island Home ferry.

"We're going to build a ferry. We're moving forward with one boat," Haugen told members of the Island County Council of Governments at its meeting today in Coupeville.

The state will likely build two additional ferries of that size, Haugen added, and push back construction of new 144-vehicle-capacity ferries.

Only one bid was submitted for the ferry project, which was opened by Washington State Ferries on Nov. 13.

The proposal, from Todd Pacific Shipyards, was a joint bid for $65.5 million for one ferry and $124.4 million for two.

"The cost of the new boat is a lot, there's no question about it," Haugen told the council, which included representatives from the city of Langley, the ports of South Whidbey and Coupeville and Island County.

She said Gov. Christine Gregoire had concerns about the state receiving just one bid, but Haugen noted the state would face other costs if jobs continue to be lost in Washington. Having new vessels built here means jobs, she said.

"If we were to build out of state, it would cost you $2 million to bring it here," Haugen added.

The Island Home was designed by the Elliott Bay Design Group of Seattle and built by VT Halter Marine Inc., of Moss Point, Mass. The 255-foot-long ferry can carry 76 vehicles and 1,200 passengers.

Washington is looking at building a modified version of the Island Home.

The first vessel is expected to go into service in April 2010, and the second later that fall, state officials said.

The state Department of Transportation ordered the two new ferries for the Keystone-Port Townsend run after four 80-year-old Steel Electric vessels were pulled from service a year ago by Washington State Ferries because of safety concerns.

Haugen said today the state may eventually build additional Island Home ferries.

"We will probably build two more of these boats. We probably will slide the 144s," she said. "The recommendation is that we don't need the 144s right now."

It's good news for the Keystone-Port Townsend route.

"That will make this area, this run in particular, very secure," Haugen said, adding that cuts in service on some routes is currently being discussed in light of the state's $5.1 billion budget deficit.

Nichols Brothers Boat Builders is part of the bid submitted by Todd Pacific Shipyards to build the Island Home.

The Freeland shipyard is expected to build the top sections of the vessels, including the entire passenger deck and galley, and the pilot houses and machinery compartments for the heating and air-conditioning systems.

Nichols Brothers officials said last week that if the company gets the ferry job, there would be three or four months of engineering work before additional workers could be added to the project.

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