Future Keystone ferries go to bid

Washington State Ferries is advertising for bids for two new ferries that will serve the Keystone to Port Townsend route.

Ferry officials expect to open the bids in early November, and, if the bids are for an acceptable amount, award a bid several days after.

“We were going out to bid in September so we’re pretty much on track,” said Hadley Greene, ferry system spokesperson.

The bids will be advertised for eight weeks before opening them. Since the Legislature requires the boats to be built in Washington, only a few bids are anticipated.

The proposed vessels will provide a permanent replacement to the antiquated Steel Electric vessels, which were removed from service in November 2007 due to safety concerns surrounding the ferries’ hulls.

After going nearly two months without vehicle ferry service, the ferry system leased the Steilacoom II from Pierce County, which will serve the route until the new vessels are completed. The scheduled completion for the first of the two new ferries is spring 2010.

The proposed ferry is based on the Island Home, which is a ferry designed by a Seattle company and is currently serving the waters around Cape Cod in Massachusetts. The Legislature in 2008 provided $84.5 million to pay for two new vessels.

Plans call for building ferries that hold 64 cars and between 650 and 750 passengers, similar in size to the old Steel Electrics. The Steilacoom II holds approximately 50 cars and 300 passengers.

The new ferries will have several changes from the current Island Home. The lift decks, which allows for 16 extra cars, won’t be installed on the ferries built for Keystone. In addition, the new ferries will use engines from a previous 144-auto ferry contract, which will help speed up construction of the first ferry, according to information from the Washington State Department of Transportation.

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