New $122 million Washington State Ferry floats for first time

The Suquamish floated out of dry dock on Friday at Vigor Shipyards in Elliott Bay.

Engineers are confident the $122 Million Olympic Class ferry will avoid issues seen in the past when it goes into service.

The Suquamish is now 70 percent done and is scheduled to go into service in the fall of 2018.

It will initially serve as a backup when other ferries have maintenance issues and then it will serve on the Mukilteo/Clinton summer route.

KIRO 7 talked to Dave Visneski, the Washington State Ferries Vessel construction manager, about what differences you’ll notice.

“They'll notice when they get out of their cars they won't bump the next car to them,” Visneski said. “If you've ridden our older vessels, those are pretty tight. This vessel we made wider for two reasons -- one for that, and we're able to take three 18-wheelers across in that center tunnel.”

It's scheduled to be ready for service next fall, but not all launches have gone smoothly.  In 2014 the first Olympic Class ferry, the Tokitae, ran into issues right when it launched.  Cars were scraping the bottom at the top of the ramp.  So, KIRO 7 morning anchor John Knicely asked how they’ll avoid similar issues.

“So this is our fourth build of the Olympic Class,” said Washington State Ferries spokesperson Nicola Zanchi.  “Over the years, we've gotten better at building them, and a lot of those initial kinks we've worked out.”

One major improvement on the Suquamish is for people with disabilities.

“The stair towers are sloped more gently. The walkways are wider,” Visneski said.  “We actually have ADA parking on both ends of the boat (and) two elevators.”

The State Transportation Commission officially chose the name the Suquamish, but the Suquamis Tribe is a big part of this project.

They're going to be providing native artwork inside the ferry.

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