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  • Governor's Communications Office, 360-902-4136

Gov. Gregoire announces solution for long-term Port Townsend/Keystone ferry service

For Immediate Release: April 28, 2008

OLYMPIA – Gov. Chris Gregoire today announced that the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) will move forward with construction of two 64-car Island Home style vessels and will not build a smaller 50-car vessel.

WSDOT no longer plans to build a 50-car Steilacoom II style vessel, which was originally intended to fill the gap in service until the two Island Homes were built. Instead, WSDOT reached agreement with Pierce County to extend the lease on one of the County’s ferries until new vessels can be built for the route.

“We appreciate the support of Executive John Ladenburg and Pierce County as we construct new vessels for this important route,” said Gov. Chris Gregoire. “I am very pleased at this agreement. Earlier this month I was in Port Townsend and heard from citizens on both ends of the route who made it clear that they preferred the larger boats. Paula and her team listened and responded by finding a way to deliver new vessels and maintain service.”

“In working with the mayors of Port Townsend and Coupeville, they shared their communities’ interest in getting two Island Home vessels built if at all possible,” said Paula Hammond, Secretary of Transportation. “Pierce County continues to be a great partner in our effort to provide auto service to this route while moving forward with new vessel construction.”

The Steilacoom II will return to Pierce County in September 2008 and its sister ship, the 50-car Christine Anderson, will serve the Port Townsend/Keystone route until the first new Island Home style ferry is ready for service in spring 2010.

"I think we've managed to find the best solution available," said Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island), chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. "I'm pleased at the efforts of Secretary Hammond and Assistant Secretary Moseley to work with Pierce County to utilize the Christine Anderson after the Steilacoom II lease expires. I hope that this action will allow us to move forward more expeditiously to build the Island Home class boats for the Keystone-Port Townsend route. These vessels will be custom built and dedicated to the most challenging route on the Washington State Ferry system."

“This is great news for the residents who rely on these ferries to get to their jobs, doctor appointments, and other necessary meetings” said Rep. Lynn Kessler (D-Port Angeles). This is also welcome news for our businesses in Port Townsend and across the Peninsula. I applaud the Governor, Paula Hammond, and David Mosley for finding a solution that will serve these communities well into the future,” she said.

“I made a commitment to work on solutions to our ferry crisis and, while we weigh the benefits and challenges of an Island Home ferry or any other option, the reality is the current boat is inadequate for the service we need,” said Rep. Norma Smith, (R-Clinton). “This course of action will curb the current delays and allow us to immediately design and build the right vessels. I believe this will get us moving in the right direction to restoring reliable, safe service on the Keystone to Port Townsend route.”

“I have consistently advocated for the right solution and that the right boat be built as quickly as possible,” said Rep. Barbara Bailey, (R-Oak Harbor). “This is a step in the right direction, and now it’s vital we execute the plan we’ve set forth. My goal is to ensure we maintain the level of reliable service needed and that our solutions meet the future needs of our communities.”

“We're thrilled,” declared Pt. Townsend Mayor Michelle Sandoval. “We think Paula Hammond and David Moseley have listened to us. I think the Island Home design is a better boat for our route and the system.”

“I’m pleased that WSDOT was able to extend the agreement with Pierce County,” stated Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard. “I know that many constituents felt it was not the best use of dollars to construct another Steilacoom II. I hope this means that the two Island Home boats can be built within the budget set by the Legislature.”

WSDOT is working toward building five new ferries – three 144-car vessels and two new 64-car Island Home style vessels. The design and construction of five boats nearly simultaneously is a first for the state’s ferry system in more than 30 years. The state will advance the advertisements of the Island Home-style construction to July 2008. The first vessel will be completed by spring 2010, with the second vessel following in fall 2010.

“I have asked WSDOT to evaluate the potential of an accelerated delivery schedule,” said Gregoire. “We want to get these boats on the water as quickly as possible”

The Island Home is a ferry operated by the Nantucket Steamship Company in Massachusetts.

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