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Legislature approves second Keystone ferry

A second boat for the Port Townsend-to-Keystone ferry route appears to be a reality.

The state Legislature included money for additional “Island Home” class ferries when it approved the $7.5 billion transportation budget Sunday for the 2009 to 2011 biennium.

The budget, which passed the Senate 41 to 8 and the House 77 to 19, provides construction of at least two more Island Home Class ferries. Those 64-car ferries are capable of navigating the difficult approach into Keystone Harbor on Central Whidbey. There is also a provision in the budget for either a larger 144-car ferry or a third Island Home ferry depending on available money. The transportation budget heads to the governor for her signature.

For local leaders, an additional ferry for the Port Townsend to Keystone route is a welcome addition. Service on the route has been limited since the old Steel Electric ferries were retired in late 2007. Since then, a patchwork of passenger ferries and a car ferry currently leased from Pierce County have provided service on the route.

Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard complimented a key legislator on her efforts to secure the boats.

“I’m very happy and pleased with Sen. Haugen’s leadership,” Conard said of Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island, who is also chair of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Conard said she advocated at least a second vessel that could be used as a backup for the route. In addition, the route traditionally has two ferries during the busy spring and summer months.

One Island Home class ferry is currently under construction at Todd Shipyards in Seattle. The ferry is expected to be in service on the route by the summer of 2010.

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