Bremerton ferry naming decision coming in November

We’ll know come Nov. 19 whether a new Bremerton ferry is called Illahee, the name you chose.
That’s the day the Washington State Transportation Commission is scheduled to vote on a recommendation from its ferry committee. The schedule was announced Wednesday. A press release soliciting names is forthcoming. We already have ours.
Over the past couple months, you sent in dozens of names. We whittled them to the top three. In final voting, Illahee (179) more than doubled Suquamish (87) and Radulescu (84), the state trooper shot to death during a traffic stop near Gorst in 2012.
Illahee means “land,” “country” or “place where one lives” in the Chinook language. It’s a pretty community and former Mosquito Fleet stop just north of Bremerton. A nearby state park also bears the name.
The new Olympic-class ferry wouldn’t be the first to be named Illahee. One served the state for 59 years before being retired in 2007 because of rust. It was scrapped in 2009.
Getting back to the schedule, name packets are due to the “Transportation Commission by Sept. 12. The ferry committee will check that they comply with guidelines and move them to Washington State Ferries and the Ferry Advisory Committee Executive Council for review. The two get a month to gather opinions before chiming in.
“The key thing is that there is public support for the name and they’ve actually gone out and talked to people about it,” Reema Griffith, commission executive director, said of the name sponsors.
The 12,000 members of the commission’s Ferry Riders Opinion Group will be able to participate in a poll.
The Transportation Commission ferry committee will digest all the input the week of Nov. 10 and present its recommendation to the full body Nov. 19.
Seven names were proposed for two ferries in 2012. The commission chose Tokitae and Samish. The remaining five could be back in the running this year. They are Ivar Haglund, Cowlitz, Hoquiam, Muckleshoot and Sammamish.
All that’s left for us is to solicit backing from local, regional and state bodies and officials. I’d like to include support from you, even if it’s only a sentence. It’d be cool to send in a hundred sentences from those who actually selected the name.
It’s been a couple years since the last names were chosen and I never wondered why. While the state was determining how to pay for the third ferry, another boat jumped in front of it at Vigor shipyards, WSF interim director George Capacci told the commission Wednesday.
“The challenge is we didn’t build three boats,” he said. “We built one and we built one and we built one. The shipyard took another project between the second and third vessels.”
Capacci said the Tokitae’s introduction to service June 30 was seamless, the smoothest he’s been involved with in 20 years. Commissioners wanted to know about vehicles scraping going to the upper car deck.
“I can count them on one hand of the thousands of vehicles we’ve carried over the last two weeks,” he said. “It is not operationally limiting, but with the electron microscope under which we operate constantly, it has drawn some attention.”
Money is coming in fine for the new 144-car ferries. A 25-cent capital surcharge was added to each ticket to pay for bonds to build the first two boats. The debt payment is about $5 million per biennium while the surcharge is generating about $7.8 million, WSF finance director Jean Baker told the commission. The Legislature passed some fee increases last session to help pay for the third boat.
Fare revenue in general has been up. During the 2011-13 biennium, it was $1.2 million over projections. This biennium is looking to be $1.5 million more.