Fey’s ferry bill now heads to the Governor’s desk

OLYMPIA—This past weekend, the Walla Walla ferry that traverses the waters between Seattle and Bainbridge Island ran aground. Nearly 600 passengers and vehicles were offloaded, and the 50-year-old ferry was towed to Bremerton. Investigations are still ongoing, but a mechanical failure is the most likely cause of yet another Washington State Ferries (WSF) incident in the state.

Rep. Jake Fey (D-Tacoma) knows that WSF’s fleet is old—and the Walla Walla isn’t even the agency’s oldest.

“The oldest vessel in the WSF fleet, the Tilikum, is 64 years old,” said Fey. “Fixing these ferries is difficult, and very expensive. That’s why I introduced HB 1846—it’s a bill that opens the procurement process for new vessels within the WSF fleet to national shipbuilders. We need new vessels now.”

Now can’t come soon enough, but Fey also stated that the earliest the state will see new ferries is a few years away, as it will take time to both review bids from boatbuilders and to build the vessels.

“We’ve actually been trying to get new ferries on our waters for several years, but we’ve had issues reaching a deal with Washington-based boatbuilders,” said Fey. “That’s why we opened up the procurement to solicit bids from national boatbuilders.”

HB 1846 offers Washington boatbuilders a 13 percent credit for proposals for vessels constructed in state. The 13 percent accounts for the economic benefits that come from building vessels within the state and the overall creation of additional jobs in our communities rather than somewhere else in the country.

On April 11, HB 1846 passed the House with a vote of 93-4. On April 14, it cleared the Senate with a vote of 47-0, but the Senate made changes to the bill, which meant sending the amendments back to the House for concurrence. On April 18, the House heard it again and passed the bill with a vote of 94-3. HB 1846 now heads to the Governor’s desk for his signature.