Patrick Robinson
The Rachel Marie, which suffered an electrical failure on Aug. 10 and the sister vessel, the Melssa Ann are set to be replaced by new larger capacity boats according to the offices of King County Executive Dow Constantine and King County Councilmember and Ferry District Chair Joe McDermott. Federal grants have been secured for 80% of the cost to replace both boats.

Water Taxi vessels will be replaced with new, larger boats by 2014

The ongoing issues that the vessels serving as the West Seattle Water Taxis face were highlighted again Aug. 10 with the failure of an alternator aboard the Rachel Marie. That made the mention of efforts to replace both boats (the other is called the Melissa Ann) by King County Executive Dow Constantine and Ferry District Chair Joe McDermott all the more welcome. In an announcement they shared that they had already secured federal grants to fund 80 percent of the cost of replacement vessels and said they could be operational by 2014.

The Ferry District currently leases the two 20-year old vessels that have seen repeated failures. The Marine Division of the King County Department of Transportation expects to issue a request for proposals for design and construction of two new vessels in 2013 and have them operational by 2014.

Each of the new vessels will cost 5- to 6.5-million dollars and would carry more passengers.

“These new state-of-the-art vessels will provide safe, efficient, and cost-effective service for our customers,” said Executive Constantine. “We are so grateful to Senator Patty Murray and Representative Rick Larsen for securing federal funds to help build these vessels.”

“We have an enthusiastic customer base for the King County Water Taxi service. These new vessels will offer better and more reliable service, help us grow ridership, and will be friendlier to the environment,” said Ferry District Chair and King County Councilmember McDermott. “These will be custom-built for our Water Taxi routes, and owned rather than leased.”

The remaining 20 percent of the cost for the new vessels has been funded by the Ferry District, which contracts with the Marine Division for service. In adopting its 2012 budget last October, the Ferry District Board approved funding and construction of the two new vessels.

While current vessels hold 150 passengers, crews have noticed an increase in the number of times a boat leaves at 100 percent capacity, leaving some customers ashore to wait for the next run. The newer ferries would have a larger capacity. In the meantime, the Ferry District has directed the Marine Division to pursue authorization to carry 172 passengers on its current vessels.

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