Bigger ferries would meet needs

OLYMPIA — The Island Home-class ferries being eyed as a model for new boats on the Port Townsend-Keystone route would meet state ferries system needs, but be more expensive than the retired Steel Electrics to operate, said a report given to state legislators last week.

The Island Home-class ferry used in Nantucket, Mass., is designed by the same Washington state designer that created the smaller Steilacoom II, which Washington State Ferries is leasing from Pierce County for the Port Townsend-Keystone run.

The Steilacoom II was built in 1996 by Nichols Brothers shipbuilders on Whidbey Island.

Steilacoom II Capt. Mark Haupt, Washington State Ferries Port Capt. Pete Williams and two engineers returned Wednesday from a trip to evaluate the Island Home-class ferries operated by the Nantucket Steamship Company.

Several state lawmakers and some Port Townsend civic leaders have discussed using the Island Home 1,200-passenger, 76-car ferries as models for replacements of two of the four 60-car, 616-passenger Steel Electrics that were pulled from service Nov. 20 by state Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond.

The Steel Electrics were idled because of safety concerns.

Another 50-car, 350-passenger Steilacoom II-class ferry, identical to the one being leased from Pierce County, is being built to serve on the route, while larger ferries are considered for the future.

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