Washington State Ferries looks for billions to replace old boats

KINGSTON, Wash - Thursday, Washington State Ferry officials presented plans to the public on how they look to keep ferry rides reliable through the next 20 years.

Washington State Ferry’s currently has 23 boats in its fleet. However, half of those boats will reach their life expectancy in the next 20 years.

In some cases, the need to replace boats is immediate. Officials say two boats should be replaced by next year.

Commuters waited more than an hour to catch the Edmonds to Kingston Ferry on Thursday. Officials with WSF say at peak times like during the summer or holidays, wait times can get as long as three to four hours.

“Reliable services is really the top theme we heard,” said Hadley Rodero with WSF.

Last Spring, WSF took input from the community on what changes and improvements they would like to see in the ferries.

Thursday, Rodero and other state officials gave the public the opportunity to see the new plan.

The plan looks to utilize things like reservations to help deal with wait times.

The most expensive aspect of the plan is creating 16 new ferry boats.

“This is what we need this is what we need to keep serving the customers we have and the customers we expect in the future,” said Rodero.

The total cost of the plan is $14.2 billion dollars over the next 20 years.

“It’s a big ask, it’s a lot of money to build sixteen new ferries,” said Rodero.

About 25 million people rode the ferry last year, WSF officials say.  Those numbers are expected to grow.

The next step in the process is to provide the finalized plan to lawmakers this January.

The hope is this summer the money will be there, and new ferries will be under construction.

The community has until October 25th to provide online input on the plan.