News

Clone nixed for Island Home

System opts

for larger ferries

Rather than build a ferry nobody wants, the ferry system has decided to move in a different direction.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Monday negotiated an extension to the lease for the ferry currently serving the Keystone to Port Townsend route.

That extension will allow officials to scrap plans to build a new ferry some called a clone of the Steilacoom II, a Pierce County-owned vessel currently serving the route. Community leaders argued the 50-car ferry isn’t large or sturdy enough for the sometimes-harrowing voyage across Admiralty Inlet.

“I am very pleased at this agreement,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a news release. “Earlier this month I was in Port Townsend and heard from citizens on both ends of the route who made it clear that they preferred the larger boats.”

The new lease means there will be continuous car ferry service while the ferry system moves forward with plans to build two larger ferries for the run. Those ferries, modeled after the Island Home serving in Massachusetts, are similar in size to the Steel Electrics that served the route for years.

The ferry system’s new plan came as good news to legislators and community leaders.

“I think we’re all thrilled that we were able to continue on with the boat,” State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said of the extended lease. She is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Democrat from Camano Island said the ferry system will move forward with two Island Home vessels, even though some in the community would like three of the larger vessels built. The Legislature set aside $85 million for three ferries, but that’s now down to two.

Whidbey Island’s two Republican State House members, Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith, also endorsed the ferry system’s revised plan.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard agreed, saying extending the lease with Pierce County is responsive to the community’s wishes. She has concerns about the Steilacoom II continuing to serve the route, especially if there isn’t any backup available.

The lease the ferry system signed with Pierce County keeps the Steilacoom II on the Admiralty Inlet route until September 2008. After that, its sister ship, the Christine Anderson, will replace the Steilacoom II and continue serving the route until spring 2010.

By that time, construction of the first Island Home vessel should be complete.

The Island Home ferry is a vessel designed in Seattle and currently operated by the Nantucket Steamship Company in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, several ferry employees ventured to the East Coast to get a firsthand look at the boat in action. The current Island Home holds approximately 76 vehicles and 1,200 passengers.

The project is scheduled to go out to bid in July, and a contract would be awarded in August, so construction would be finished by spring 2010. The second ferry would be complete six months later.

Haugen said the Island Home will improve service because it will operate with fewer weather-related cancellations.

Conard said that she still has concerns about how much the Island Home-type vessels will cost.

The Island Home cost $32 million to build, but Haugen said construction of that vessel took place several years ago and she wouldn’t be surprised if the cost climbs as high as $40 million each.

The ferry system already had problems with bids coming in higher than estimated. When it first advertised the 50-car ferry project for a Steilacoom II clone, only one company submitted a bid and it came in $9 million over estimate. That bid, submitted by Todd Shipyards, was ultimately rejected.

The route was thrown into chaos last November when transportation officials pulled the antiquated Steel Electrics from service due to hull corrosion. Passenger-only ferry service operated on the route for several months until ferry officials negotiated a lease with Pierce County for use of the Steilacoom II, which started working the route in February.

System opts

for larger ferries

Rather than build a ferry nobody wants, the ferry system has decided to move in a different direction.

The Washington State Department of Transportation Monday negotiated an extension to the lease for the ferry currently serving the Keystone to Port Townsend route.

That extension will allow officials to scrap plans to build a new ferry some called a clone of the Steilacoom II, a Pierce County-owned vessel currently serving the route. Community leaders argued the 50-car ferry isn’t large or sturdy enough for the sometimes-harrowing voyage across Admiralty Inlet.

“I am very pleased at this agreement,” Gov. Chris Gregoire said in a news release. “Earlier this month I was in Port Townsend and heard from citizens on both ends of the route who made it clear that they preferred the larger boats.”

The new lease means there will be continuous car ferry service while the ferry system moves forward with plans to build two larger ferries for the run. Those ferries, modeled after the Island Home serving in Massachusetts, are similar in size to the Steel Electrics that served the route for years.

The ferry system’s new plan came as good news to legislators and community leaders.

“I think we’re all thrilled that we were able to continue on with the boat,” State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said of the extended lease. She is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

The Democrat from Camano Island said the ferry system will move forward with two Island Home vessels, even though some in the community would like three of the larger vessels built. The Legislature set aside $85 million for three ferries, but that’s now down to two.

Whidbey Island’s two Republican State House members, Barbara Bailey and Norma Smith, also endorsed the ferry system’s revised plan.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard agreed, saying extending the lease with Pierce County is responsive to the community’s wishes. She has concerns about the Steilacoom II continuing to serve the route, especially if there isn’t any backup available.

The lease the ferry system signed with Pierce County keeps the Steilacoom II on the Admiralty Inlet route until September 2008. After that, its sister ship, the Christine Anderson, will replace the Steilacoom II and continue serving the route until spring 2010.

By that time, construction of the first Island Home vessel should be complete.

The Island Home ferry is a vessel designed in Seattle and currently operated by the Nantucket Steamship Company in Massachusetts. Earlier in the year, several ferry employees ventured to the East Coast to get a firsthand look at the boat in action. The current Island Home holds approximately 76 vehicles and 1,200 passengers.

The project is scheduled to go out to bid in July, and a contract would be awarded in August, so construction would be finished by spring 2010. The second ferry would be complete six months later.

Haugen said the Island Home will improve service because it will operate with fewer weather-related cancellations.

Conard said that she still has concerns about how much the Island Home-type vessels will cost.

The Island Home cost $32 million to build, but Haugen said construction of that vessel took place several years ago and she wouldn’t be surprised if the cost climbs as high as $40 million each.

The ferry system already had problems with bids coming in higher than estimated. When it first advertised the 50-car ferry project for a Steilacoom II clone, only one company submitted a bid and it came in $9 million over estimate. That bid, submitted by Todd Shipyards, was ultimately rejected.

The route was thrown into chaos last November when transportation officials pulled the antiquated Steel Electrics from service due to hull corrosion. Passenger-only ferry service operated on the route for several months until ferry officials negotiated a lease with Pierce County for use of the Steilacoom II, which started working the route in February.

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