Bids sought for at least two more ferries

Plans to fully restore service on the Port Townsend-to-Keystone Harbor ferry route are taking another step forward.

The Washington State Department of Transportation’s Ferries Division is advertising for bids to build at least two additional 64-car ferries capable of navigating the difficult entry into Keystone Harbor.

The ferry system is building four new ferries in the next five years to update its aging fleet.

“Adding these new vessels is a significant step toward updating our fleet and providing customers a long-term, sustainable ferry system,” Washington Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond said in a news release. “This is a big step in solving the problem and restoring full ferry service for both Coupeville and Port Townsend.”

Washington State Ferries awarded a $65.5-million contract to Todd Pacific Shipyards last December to build one 64-car ferry which is scheduled to start work on the Port Townsend/Keystone route in the summer of 2010. The route is currently served by the small Steilacoom II, which the ferry system leased from Pierce County.

“We’re happy to report that we’re making progress. Construction is well under way on the first new 64-car ferry,” said ferry system Assistant Secretary David Moseley. Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland is working on part of the job.

The ferry system will try to build a second and third ferry with an option to build a fourth. However, if enough money becomes available to purchase a larger ferry, the ferry system will build a 144-car ferry instead of a 64-car ferry.

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