Where to Start on the FerriesJanuary 19th, 2009 by ed friedrich
Washington State Ferries came out with its long-range draft plans, A and B, that cover the next 22 years, and people should understand them, but it might be easier to address the ferries a biennium or two at a time.
For example, the governor has already proposed a ferry budget for 2009-11. We could start with that. She proposes to save $9.2 million by cutting the Anacortes-Sidney, B.C. route. Is that a good idea? Does the route bring in $9.2 million to the Anacortes and state economies every two years? I don’t know, but I think they’ve done this study a few times already and it’d be easy to find out. And you can look at the rider numbers. Maybe the route loses tons of money in the winter and does OK in the summer. You might be able to run just half the year and not lose much and not hurt the community so much.
The other thing the guv plans to do right away is put the 34-car Hiyu on the Point Defiance-Tahlequah route instead of the 48-car Rhododendron. It would save $1.3 million. Is that a good idea? The Hiyu is on the route now while the Rhody is in the shop, and I keep getting e-mail alerts from WSF saying the boat is full and to get there an hour early. Maybe you could keep the Rhody until the second Island Home boat is built. The first goes to PT, the next could go to Point Defiance and the Hiyu could be the second boat at PT until the third Island Home is built.
If you want to prevent either one of those cuts, money has to be found elsewhere.
The following biennium, 2011-13, is when she would cut a boat from each of the Bremerton and Southworth routes. She didn’t say how much would be saved, but it should be pretty easy to find out and you could start looking at how to make up that money elsewhere.
That brings us to boat-building. WSF’s Plan A is a pretty good starting point. It would build 3 Island Homes first and then pick right up building 7 144-car boats. A consultant recommended waiting to build the 144s until a lot later. The new boats would replace old ones, not add to the fleet, but some would be a little bigger than the ones they replace.
Gregoire’s proposal funds just one Island Home boat that’s already in the process of being built. I’m at home so I don’t have the figures in front of me, but something like $84 million was allocated for Island Home boats and one wound up costing $65 million, so I need to figure out where the other $20 million went. The $84 million came from something like $350 million allocated a long time ago for the 144s. So there’s a couple hundred million left over from that. I don’t know if that got rolled back into the general transportation budget or if it’s still available. Probably not.
Another thing is figuring out how to get the boats built for less. People say there’s a big “hassle” factor built into bids for having to deal with WSF. I don’t know if that’s true. I think Rep. Larry Seaquist mentioned an idea to me about having a construction manager handle it for WSF and maybe get rid of some of that extra cost. He thinks we can get the boats a lot cheaper but wants them built in Washington.
First you need to check with Todd Shipyards and see if they want the work or are too busy to do it. If they don’t really want it, then you have to go out of state because nobody else here seems to want to bid on ferries. Building them in-state also take you out of the running for any federal subsidies or stimulus money, I confirmed last week. I don’t know what would be available, but you would have to factor that in, too. Rep. Rolfes mentioned Saturday that she’ll introduce a bill to get around that somehow. I’ll find out more about that tomorrow, I hope.