Monday hearing set for ferry building bill

A public hearing will be held Monday in Olympia on House bill 1652, which would allow shipyards outside of the state to bid on the construction of new boats for Washington State Ferries.

The hearing will be held by the House Transportation Committee. The committee Monday will also hold a work session on a revised draft of WSF's long-range plan and a public hearing on HB 1209, which would fund foot ferries.

Rep. Christine Rolfes of Bainbridge, who sponsored HB 1652, said the intent of the legislation is to lower the cost of new ferries, while opening the projects to federal stimulus money.

Rolfes said it became apparent at recent WSF hearings that the public was frustrated by the bidding process and wanted to see more competition allowed.

"It was a very consistent theme throughout the hearings," Rolfes said.

The bill only applies to ferries designed to carry fewer than 100 cars. Rolfes said the hope is to secure federal funding for the proposed 64-car Island Home ferries, which are designed and ready for construction.

"We know the projects need to be shovel-ready, or welder-ready in this case," Rolfes said.

Bidding on ferry construction has so far been open only to Washington shipyards. In December WSF awarded Todd Shipyards a $64.5 million contract to build one Island Home ferry. Todd was the only bidder and the bid was $16 million more than WSF's estimated cost.

The Transportation Committee meets 3:30 p.m. Monday in House Hearing Room B of the John L. O'Brien Building in Olympia. Its meeting will begin with the WSF work session which is open to the public. Public hearings on HB 1209 and HB 1652 will follow. (See a full agenda).

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