Calmer waters ahead for Washington State Ferries?

The bid is finally out for five new electric hybrid boats. Will the Washington State Ferries get a contract it can live with this time?

The first of five new electric hybrid ferries was supposed to come into service two years ago, but the original contract with Todd Shipyards, now Vigor, fell through. It was the only shipyard to bid on the contract but the price came in double what the state was expecting to pay. The contract was canceled, leaving the ferry system in the precarious position it is today.

It has only 21 boats, and the system has been running at 15. Full service is 26 boats.

Will this contract fair any better?

A major change this time around is the state can look outside of Washington for potential bidders. State Representative Jake Fey, who heads the House Transportation Committee, helped pass a bill last year that allowed for the extra competition.

“We’re looking across the country because we need to get a good price for ferry riders and for the state,” Rep. Fey told KIRO Newsradio in a recent interview. “We’ll see what comes from that.”

If the contract stays on schedule, the first two boats could be on the water in 2028, with two more the following year and the fifth in 2030. This would be the first time since 1967 that boats built outside of Washington would enter the ferry service. The Seattle Times reported there are 15 potential suitors for the contract, including Vigor.

Representative Fey said he’s hopeful it will all come together.

“The ferry system needs some good news and some hope for the future,” he told KIRO Newsradio.  “It took a long time to get into the situation, and it’s going to take a while to get out. We need to start having some good news for ferry riders.”

These new ferries will carry 160 cars, an upgrade from the current 144-car capacity. These first new boats are expected to serve the Mukilteo/Clinton route and the Seattle-Bremerton route.

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