Washington state ferries are docked on the north end of Vashon Island on Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Washington state ferries are docked on the north end of Vashon Island on Feb. 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Three state ferries projects get federal funding

WASHINGTON — Washington State Ferries will receive three grants from the Federal Transit Administration totaling $11.6 million.

The Biden administration will issue $220 million in grants to modernize the nation’s ferry systems, officials announced Thursday. The Washington state grants come from the Passenger Ferry Grant Program and the new Electric or Low Emitting Ferry Pilot Program, both included in the Biden-Harris Infrastructure Law (BIL), both championed by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace, she said in a press release.

“These grants will help electrify one of Washington State Ferries’ busiest routes, create a better experience for the Southworth terminal’s nearly 800,000 annual passengers, and make buying a ferry ticket easier than ever,” Cantwell said.

The following three grants were awarded to Washington State Ferries:

• Mukilteo-Clinton Route Electrification ($4.9 million): The grant will help fund construction of an electric charging station at the Clinton Ferry Terminal to electrify this key route connecting Whidbey Island and mainland Washington.

The route was used by 3,397,956 riders in 2022, making it the second-most popular route in the system (Seattle-Bainbridge Island is the most popular). Currently, there are approximately 40 daily crossings on the route.

The charging station will serve two new electric ferries expected to be delivered in 2027 or 2028 — one of which is the Olympic-class MV Wishkah, set to become the state’s first new hybrid electric ferry — reducing emissions on each crossing by 95 percent. The total project cost for the charging station is $19.3 million.

Funding for this project came from the Electric or Low Emitting Ferry Pilot Program, a new program that provides competitive funding to purchase electric or low-emitting ferries, electrify or reduce emissions from existing ferries, and install related charging infrastructure. The BIL created this program and provided $250 million over five years.

• Southworth Ferry Terminal Improvements ($5 million): The grant will help fund construction of a new passenger terminal, and improve passenger flow to accommodate an expected increase in riders whether they arrive in vehicles, via transit, bicycles or on foot.

The Washington State Ferries’ Southworth-Vashon and Southworth-Fauntleroy routes served a total of 678,767 riders in 2022, and an additional 98,186 used the terminal to catch the Kitsap Transit Southworth-Seattle Fast Ferry.

The total project cost is $10 million.

• New Payment Kiosks and Online Payment Upgrades ($1.7 million): The grant will help Washington State Ferries buy new payment kiosks and online payment options. The existing credit card readers are eight years old and aren’t equipped with chip readers.

The new payment kiosks will allow riders to insert their chip to pay, rather than swiping, which is a more secure form of payment. As part of the project, Washington State Ferries will also upgrade its online payment systems.

The total cost of the project is $2.17 million.

Funding for the Southworth project and the kiosk upgrades came from the Passenger Ferry Grant Program, which provides funding to support passenger ferry systems in urban areas and invests in the enhancement and revitalization of public ferries.

As the chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, Cantwell has championed investments in the State of Washington’s transportation systems, she said. Cantwell also played an instrumental role in securing $25 million to replace the 60-year-old Lummi Island ferry with a state-of-the-art electric hybrid vessel.

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