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It's official: Chetzemoka sails from Whidbey Aug. 29

The Washington State Department of Transportation Ferries Division announced Friday that the new 64-car ferry Chetzemoka will make its inaugural sailing between Whidbey Island and Port Townsend on Sunday, Aug. 29.

The Chetzemoka is the first new Washington state ferry built in more than a decade. WSF will meet its goal of placing a new vessel into service in August 2010.

“Washington State Ferries is the largest ferry system in the country carrying nearly 23 million passengers a year,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire in a news release. “As we take steps to cut costs and improve efficiencies in the operations side of the system, we have also made investments in our vessels to ensure a safe and reliable system. The launching of the Chetzemoka represents our commitment to maintaining a world-class ferry system that thousands of Washingtonians depend on every day to move them across Puget Sound.”

Paula Hammond, Washington Transportation Secretary said that with the Chetzemoka nearly ready for service, and construction under way on the second new vessel with a third soon to follow, "we have taken the first steps toward achieving the healthy and sustainable ferry system envisioned and called for in the ferry system's long-range plan.”

The ferry system will host activities on Whidbey Island, in Port Townsend, and aboard the Chetzemoka on Aug. 29. The events are currently in the planning phases, and more information will be provided as details are confirmed. It is anticipated that the Chetzemoka’s first full day of service on the Port Townsend/Keystone route will be Monday, Aug. 30.

The Chetzemoka is well under way on its integrated construction schedule. It is currently undergoing final outfitting and dock trials at Everett Shipyard. The ferry system will conduct dockside training in mid-July and full crew and vessel training will commence in late July before placing the vessel into service at the end of August.

There has been no state-owned ferry to serve the Port Townsend/Keystone route since November 2007 when the Steel Electric class boats were pulled from service. The state has been leasing the 50-car Steilacoom II from Pierce County since January 2008 to serve this challenging route until new ferries could be built.

The ferry sytem awarded the $65.5 million contract for construction of the Chetzemoka to Todd Pacific Shipyards of Seattle in December 2008. Beginning construction in January 2009, Todd worked with its subcontractors Everett Shipyard, Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland and Jesse Engineering to meet an aggressive 18-month timeline to build this first vessel in the class of Kwa-di Tabil (64-car) Ferries.

The state is building new ferries to replace its aging fleet. Nine of WSF’s 20 auto-passenger ferries are between 40 and 65 years old and must be replaced in the next 20 years. Construction is well under way on the second Kwa-di Tabil ferry, and steel is being cut for the third vessel. The $114.1 million contract for the second and third vessels, awarded to Todd in October 2009, includes an option to purchase a fourth 64-car ferry. WSF will pursue procurement of a 144-car ferry rather than a fourth 64-car ferry if sufficient funding is available prior to exercising the option to build the fourth 64-car ferry.

For more information about the Chetzemoka and the other new Kwa-di Tabil Class Ferries, please visit www.wsdot.wa.gov/Projects/Ferries/64CarFerries.

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