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Smooth sailing for Southworth Ferry

Smooth sailing for Southworth Ferry

Representatives from Washington state’s ferry system met Tuesday at Harper Church to discuss potential ferry system updates.

David Mosely, WSDOT Ferries Division Assistant Secretary, said he was at the church to provide an opportunity for residents to ask questions and better understand the ferry system. But the night was quiet for the couple of residents who attended as Mosely described a system that was mostly on track.

He reported that King County would begin construction on an upgrade at a pump station adjacent to the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal in West Seattle. The construction could take up to two years and cause minor, if any, delays for Fauntleroy ferry users.

“I’m sure that things will go smoothly for the most part,” he said, noting that WSDOT has worked hard with King County to plan and ensure for smooth traffic flow to the ferry terminal that serves as the partner to the Southworth Ferry Dock.

Mosely also discussed construction of two new 144-car vessels. While the vessels would most likely be added to the Bremerton, Mukilteo or San Juan Ferry routes, he said any new ferries in those routes would mean the Southworth-Fauntleroy route would receive the old ferries from those routes. While those ferries wouldn’t be new, they would be an upgrade from the boats used on the Southworth-Fauntleroy route.

Mosely said WSDOT has also begun looking into the cost of converting eight Issaquah Class ferries from diesel fuel to natural gas, a project that could cost as much as $80 million. But, he said, WSDOT could make up that money in eight years given the current price gap in the two fuels. Mosely said with the rising cost of diesel, the price of fuel has jumped to account for 29 percent of the ferry system’s overall budget in 2012, up from 11 percent in 2000.

Switching to natural gas would also mean a more clean-burning, environmentally friendly ferry system. If retrofitted, the ferries would be the first to burn natural gas in the country.

The only hesitation is funding, Mosely said. He hoped to have a plan in place to retrofit the ferries that could be presented to the state Legislature.

“What we need now is funding,” he said.

Mosely did not discuss recent bumps in ferry ridership costs. He did say that changes to the Fauntleroy-Southworth ferry schedule were not likely.

 

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