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State to build one ferry

State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen said Wednesday morning the ferry system is moving forward with building one Island Home ferry for the Port Townsend-to-Keystone ferry route.

Haugen, who is chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, told members of Island County’s Council of Governments of the decision to move forward with a permanent ferry for the route.

The announcement means the ferry system will build a 64-car ferry for $65 million. That ferry is scheduled to be complete in the spring of 2010.

Haugen said in an interview after the meeting that the Legislature will have to revisit the topic of building additional boats for the ferry system.

Marta Coursey, spokesperson for Washington State Ferries, said a formal bid announcement is expected to take place early next week.

The sole bid, which was made by Todd Shipyards, was higher than the $49.4 million engineer estimate the ferry system had for the ferry. Nichols Brother’s Boat Builders is a subcontractor on the project. The Freeland-based business will built the superstructures for the Island Home ferry.

Haugen said the bid came in so high because the short construction period meant a considerable amount of overtime had to be written into the contract.

The decision comes a week after a presentation made at a Joint Transportation Committee meeting said that the new ferries could be built cheaper out of state.

Haugen said the topic of requiring ferries to be built in Washington will be revisited by the Legislature and she is committed to have them built locally.

“I think it’s better to pay wages than to pay unemployment,” Haugen said. Even though there would be money saved by building ferries out of state, she said there would be extra costs incurred with transportation and oversight.

There is talk of building up to four of the Island Home vessels and to hold off on building the larger 144-car ferries. Haugen said that recommendation came about because it’s easier to maintain and operate the smaller ferries. If approved, those additional ferries could also operate in the San Juan Islands and other routes throughout the system.

Coursey said the timeline and the number of Island Home ferries that will be built won’t be decided until the next legislative session.

Haugen’s announcement comes one year after the Steel Electric ferries were pulled from service due to safety concerns surrounding the hulls of the antiquated vessels.

Passenger ferry service was offered in the months following the decision until the current vessel, the Steilacoom II, started operating on the route. However, that vessel is scheduled to be pulled from service Jan. 4 to undergo maintenance and inspection required by the Coast Guard.

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