By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
With periodic boat breakdowns continuing to affect King County Water Taxi service, it would seem the two brand-new 250-passenger boats the county plans to build can’t be ready soon enough.
They won’t be ready as soon as hoped for, though – the county has to send the project out to bid a second time, and plans to add to the budget.
This means the schedule for delivery “has slipped a few months,” according to King County Councilmember (and Ferry District Board chair) Joe McDermott‘s legislative assistant Michelle Allison. Now, she tells WSB, “we are planning to receive the first vessel in late 2014 and the second in the first quarter of 2015.”
As discussed at the most recent Ferry District Board meeting, Allison tells WSB, the county Procurement Division reported that the first Request for Qualifications attracted two qualified potential proposers – but in the ensuing Request for Proposals (RFP) process, only one submitted a bid, and that was determined to be “unresponsive” – over the $11.1 million construction budget. The county sought a third-party engineer’s estimate for the two-boat plan, and that “confirmed what our qualified bidders were telling the county,” says Allison, so as a result, the district is adding more than $800,000 to the $11.1 million construction budget for the new vessels – mostly from grant money (which is also the source of about 80 percent of the originally budgeted amount); $166,000 will come from Ferry District reserves, assuming the proposed budget increase is approved.
According to county documents, the specs for the new boats have been revised to call for a design involving two propeller engines “to reduce construction and fuel costs.”
Meantime, while ridership on the West Seattle Water Taxi was down for four consecutive months – compared to last year – through May, totals posted online indicate a turnaround that yielded the highest June ridership ever, up 35 percent from the year before.