January 26, 2013 in City

Lawmakers looking at cost of new ferries

Boats must be built in Washington shipyards
Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Welders and others work on a new ferry, Tokitae, at Vigor Industrial in Seattle last May. State lawmakers may reconsider a law that requires new ferries to be built in Washington.
(Full-size photo)

EVERETT – State lawmakers may reconsider the law that requires new ferries to be built in Washington in light of an audit suggesting that they could be built cheaper at shipyards out of state.

The $1.2 million audit was the subject of a hearing Wednesday in Olympia before the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, which has 13 representatives and senators.

The 78-page report that took a year to complete did not detail construction spending on every new ferry built in recent years, but it shows the state paid higher prices on the six newest vessels in the fleet, the Daily Herald reported Wednesday.

The state paid $80 million for the 64-car Chetzemoka compared with the $43 million it cost to construct the similar 76-car Island Home, which serves the islands of Martha Vineyard and Nantucket in Massachusetts.

The law that requires state ferries to be built by a Washington company limits competition and pushes up costs, the audit concluded.

Todd Shipyards, now owned by Vigor Industrial, built the past six ferries for the state and is building two more now.

Auditors recommend allowing out-of-state shipyards to at least bid on new vessel construction contracts, if bids from in-state firms are insufficient or higher than expected. They also suggest the state assert tighter control of the terms and prices in construction contracts.

The audit examined construction costs of the three newest vessels, the 64-car ferries in the Kwa-di Tabil class, and the three Jumbo Mark II boats built in the 1990s, which carry 202 cars each.

On four of those boats, the auditors found the state shelled out between $8 million and $42 million more per ferry when compared with comparable vessels, after accounting for design differences.

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