Ceremony marks construction start for new King County Water Taxi boats

At All American Marine in Bellingham today, a keel-laying ceremony marked the start of construction for the two new King County Water Taxi vessels.

(Artist rendering of new vessels’ basic design)
The boats are scheduled to be delivered next year, as reported here last December, with federal money covering 80 percent of their $11.8 million cost.

31 Replies to "Ceremony marks construction start for new King County Water Taxi boats"

  • Wally April 25, 2014 (11:46 pm)

    What was wrong with the old one? Every 11 point 8 million dollars adds up.

  • miws April 26, 2014 (7:32 am)

    Ummmm….regular breakdowns of the Rachel Marie, and Melissa Ann, and even occasionally the Spirit of Kingston, which is a replacement, bought used, for the RM, (which is now a back-up boat).



  • miws April 26, 2014 (7:43 am)

    Or, we could let the Federal Grant lapse, keep dumping money into repairs, and eventually have to replace them entirely with Local Money, likely at a higher total cost as currently.


    Who knows? Maybe Atlanta would get the Grant if we turned it down.


    Can we say Forward Thrust—-1968?



  • JayDee April 26, 2014 (8:27 am)


    The “old” ferries were rode hard and put away wet–Both the Rachel Marie and the Melissa Ann were pretty beat up. It didn’t help when the Rachel Marie plowed into the seawall. The Rachel Marie suffers frequent mechanical problems. I am not familiar with the Kingston boat which took over the West Seattle route.

  • Yardvark April 26, 2014 (9:32 am)

    So awesome! This is such an essential route and, as the WS Bridge becomes increasingly overburdened by new WS housing developments and potentially less bus service, this route will only become more important. Thankfully, it’ll soon be all the more reliable!

    On that note, I wonder if there’s any chance we could ever see a Water Taxi route from Fauntleroy to Downtown. Or if private water taxis could start to spring up to help us West Seattlites even further. Is there a Lyft or UberX for boats out there that could get some traction in West Seattle?

  • wetone April 26, 2014 (10:04 am)

    The money it cost to build the new boats would of covered many years of maintenance of current fleet. There are always used ones on the market if our boats were really that bad. But Seattle likes spending money and having short term bragging rights on their innovative ideas. I am just curious to where everyone is going to park or how one will get to them for use, will we be spending more money for dock rebuild or modifications for new boats ? Will look good though to go along with waterfront rebuild and the tourist. If one wants to look at subsidized transit this is about as good as it gets.

  • miws April 26, 2014 (10:19 am)

    Is there a Lyft or UberX for boats out there that could get some traction in West Seattle?


    Probably not. I mean, I’m no expert in Physics, but I think it’s pretty impossible to get traction on water. ;-)



  • Anne April 26, 2014 (11:38 am)

    Would love to see the Water Taxi stop at Pier 66 – like it used to.

  • JanS April 26, 2014 (12:11 pm)

    wetone..understand, please…the money isn’t local Seattle money(nor is the water taxi operated by Seattle), nor is it King County money, nor is it state money…it’s a FEDERAL GRANT….please read the article thoroughly…thanks…

    • WSB April 26, 2014 (12:35 pm)

      Background on the boats that are being replaced, both in service more than 25 years in a variety of interesting locations (from Micronesia to Honolulu to Alaska), as we first reported in 2010.
      The Spirit of Kingston, which the county is keeping, is much newer. And the King County Ferry District got it virtually for free – Kingston got it with federal grant money but then decided to stop passenger-ferry service. The county managed to work out a deal to take it over.

  • flimflam April 26, 2014 (1:16 pm)

    I keep hearing about how federal money paid for rapid ride, bus bulbs, water taxi, etc. I understand where the money came from. are we forced to use it in such specific ways or is it for general transit improvement?

    my point is, it would be great if we could use that money as needed (to avoid metro cuts) rather than bus bulbs and water taxis.

  • miws April 26, 2014 (3:53 pm)

    So, it’s Obama’s fault!


    Obama Boats!!


    Obama Rapid Ride!!


    Obama Wall ‘O Busses at Westwood/Roxhill Park!!


    Obama Bus Bulbs!!


    Obama Annoying Audible “Wait! Wait! Wait!” Pedestrian Light Button at California & Fauntleroy!!



  • datamuse April 26, 2014 (4:39 pm)

    The money it cost to build the new boats would of covered many years of maintenance of current fleet.
    Given how frequently the current fleet is out of service, I’m skeptical about that. Or would you prefer they sink during a run?

  • let them swim April 26, 2014 (5:16 pm)


  • Mike April 26, 2014 (6:09 pm)

    I want a full breakdown of costs and funds coming in for which thing. My gut tells me some of the federal funds are going to the Colman dock improvements as well.

    • WSB April 26, 2014 (6:26 pm)

      I just tracked down three documents and my browser crashed before I finished the comment.
      is the third doc. I will have to re-find the other two when I get to my next stop.
      Pier 50 was built by the state when it ran Bremerton and Vashon foot ferries. The Bremerton ferry was dropped; the county took over the Vashon foot ferry. The county used to rent space at Argosy’s docks when its West Seattle boat was an Argosy boat. The state is getting rid of the current Pier 50 in the Colman Dock revamp. Six percent of the %268 million pricetag of said revamp is to be contributed by King County for a new passenger-ferry facility. It is described in one of the docs I will have to refind as a mix of local and federal money. Here’s the King County Transportation Budget details with some more fine print.

  • bridge to somewhere April 26, 2014 (7:19 pm)

    Please, won’t somebody think of the children?

  • wscommuter April 26, 2014 (7:21 pm)

    grumble … snark … all government bad … snark … MY taxes … grumble … let them eat cake … snark … harrumph …

  • Mike April 26, 2014 (7:26 pm)

    Thanks WSB for the links, it’s reaffirming my gut feeling even more.

    “Seattle Ferry Terminal: 2013 / 2014 Proposed Budget $2,130,000

    Both the Vashon / downtown Seattle route and the West Seattle / downtown Seattle route of the King County
    Water Taxi terminate at Pier 50 – the downtown Seattle passenger-only ferry terminal and water taxi hub. Pier 50
    is owned by Washington State Ferries (WSF) and the King County Ferry District is the primary and priority
    tenant. WSF has announced a planned preservation project at Colman Dock, which would eliminate the
    passenger-only ferry (POF) terminal at the adjacent Pier 50 site as soon as mid-2015. As a result, this project will
    include all aspects of implementing a new permanent POF facility on the downtown Seattle waterfront, and an
    interim terminal location if required to relocate due to WSF construction plans and phasing.

    As a result of considerable uncertainty over the continued existence of the current POF facilities at Pier 50, this
    project has been launched to responsibly implement a permanent and interim, if needed, location for the
    downtown Seattle POF hub. This project will use a combination of local Ferry District and federal grant funding.
    Additionally, the nature of this project and impact to the core business district has the potential to create a
    regional emphasis and collaboration with other key stakeholders”
    from: http://metro.kingcounty.gov/am/reports/2013/king-county-proposed-budget-transportation-2013-2014.pdf
    The ‘local ferry district’ and ‘federal grant funds’. That to me is the money intended for the 2 new water taxi ferries. That could be part of the extra ‘consultant’ fees and inflation over 3 years that increased the cost of the 2 ferries being built.

  • flynlo April 26, 2014 (7:54 pm)

    From the link provided by WSB above:

    King County Marine Division 2013/2014 Biennial Budget is $29,853,923. Under the heading “2013/2014 Key Issues” the following statement is made:

    “The revenue forecast from the property tax levy, passenger fares, and other sources continues to be insufficient to sustain current levels of ferry operations into the future. The broad issue of a sustainable funding source, or sources, must be addressed in the not-too-distant future.”

    In other words, hold on to your wallets! There’s more taxes coming!!
    Keep in mind that this is for a DUPLICATION of service provided for by the Washington State Ferry system and King County Metro. By duplication of service I mean the subsidized transportation of people to/from downtown Seattle.

    How many hours of additional bus hours would this buy? I seem to recall from a comment on another story that the proposed Seattle property tax would raise $25,000,000. for additional bus service.

  • Zippy The Pinhead April 26, 2014 (10:07 pm)

    @let them swim & JansS, the Feds get their money from the unicorns and mermaids.

    Seriously, I have no idea why people think that Federal money is ‘free’ money. Federal money is what the feds collect from us in taxes and re-disturb to their pet projects.

    I am amazed how many people think there is no cost to federal money.

  • metrognome April 27, 2014 (3:28 am)

    to understand the decision to buy new boats vs maintain the old ones, you need to understand how govts and businesses budget, which is different than how individuals budget. KCDOT divisions (i.e. Metro, rail, ferry, etc.) have two budgets approved by the KC Council (or the ferry board, aka the KC Council): operating and capital. Generally, money isn’t moved between the two funds although it can be done through an approval process that I believe requires council approval (i.e. a bus purchase is delayed and unspent money will be lost, so it is transferred to ops.)
    The feds provide little or no money toward operating expenses. The feds generally provide an 80% match for capital costs (buses, boats, facilities.) Maintenance is an operating expense that climbs as vehicles age; buses are generally replaced on 12 to 15 year cycle. The feds actually are unhappy if the triennial review every public transit agency goes through identifies that the average age of vehicles exceeds this range. I imagine the same is true for vessels.
    While fed $$ are not ‘free’ they are not tied to the amount of fed taxes collected in KC or WA. And, if KC does not apply for the funding, someone else will (as miws pointed out in his comment, when the Forward Thrust mass transit initiatives failed at the polls in the late 60’s and 70’s due to opposition from the ‘build more freeways’ auto lobby, the fed $$ went to Atlanta to build the MARTA system; otherwise, we’d be riding the rails now because development would have been driven (pardon the pun) by where the trains went.) While tax reform advocates may want to change this system, it is what exists now. Many feel that KC would be derelict in its duties toward citizens to not apply for capital $$ to free up maintenance dollars for other operating uses. Ultimately, this reduces the need for fare or other funding increases.

  • Civik April 27, 2014 (7:49 am)

    Cool, do they have ahigher capacity than the existing boats? We should really see about a larger passenger ferry that runs between fauntleroy and downtown. Or improve the docks for the water taxi to have a bigger boat there.

  • interested April 28, 2014 (9:22 am)

    CIVIK… see the previous article and one’s like it that tell more about these vessels:


  • interesting April 28, 2014 (9:41 am)

    If ANY of you want to find more material on KCFD financials and reports that have been leading up to this construction see:


    Also several of you are “fast to speak/criticize” and haven’t done your “due diligence” looking into both where the money comes from and how and why it is being spent… metrognome is correct, 90% of this money wouldn’t be available from the Feds, if someone hadn’t applied for it. It is only available for certain things and some is vessel specific.

    The money from the Feds (FTA) is only for the vessels, the money for the dock and the maintenance barge has come from other sources (and a small percentage from the fares collected).

    After applying for the money (see KC reports)there was a ridership analysis report performed and an expert review panel formed (volunteers) to put together preliminary ideas for the new ferries. This was a guideline to the current design-build that is being pursued. There was a bidding process involved to seek the best yard at the price that could be afforded via the federal grants and KC funds.

    Why this is being done, is a no brainer.. as pointed out by several others, the current vessels are old, to small and rented vessels in need of repair and ongoing maintenance issues.

    Wetone – states “used ones available”
    For the size (passengers and bikes) and function (speed and reliability) that is needed to accommodate the current facilities there are not as many used vessels out there in KC price range. Even fewer that don’t have excessive hours on them or in need of plenty of repair and maintenance. Last you can’t use the Feds money to buy someone else’s used boat.

  • wetone April 28, 2014 (10:05 am)

    Still curious how people will get to or where they will park as to make this a real transportation option to and from West Seattle ? There is not one dedicated parking spot for this service, only parking is on street that is very limited and soon to be gone with the new buildings going in to the north and south of the water taxi location. I know there is a free shuttle from a couple locations, what’s the usage numbers on that where do those funds come from. As said before water taxi is great for the tourism/tourist not so for commuters and will always be a very costly hole in our city budget that can’t even seem to afford good basic bus transportation system, pretty sad how are city prioritizes things. The new boats I have no problem with as it is a good design from the info I have seen. But that is only a small part of the all cost involved with the water taxi system.

    • WSB April 28, 2014 (10:38 am)

      The shuttle is funded by the same budget as the Water Taxi; it is operated by the King County Ferry District. Their budget is easily findable from the King County website http://kingcounty.gov … They are studying parking options among other things right now. In the past, they pursued an option on nearby port land, as reported here, but for a variety of reasons it didn’t work out. And it’s not part of the CITY budget, it’s part of the county budget (as is Metro). – TR

  • wetone April 28, 2014 (11:47 am)

    City, county, state, USA doesn’t matter we all pay in or most us pay taxes to all above. I like how you put City in caps. I know who operates it. Funny though how once again our leaders put the cart in-front of the horse as to making it easily accessible for one to use for commuting. And if you look at my past comments on this issue from a couple yrs. ago I stated many times the water taxi should have been moved to Jack Block area Port of Seattle property that has sat empty for years till recently, as there is lots of parking along with good ingress/egress and with a better safety factor being away from diving area and better moorage. Strictly power issues with our city/county leaders on not moving it there and maybe one property owner. Again set up more for tourism than commuting ;)

  • Nony April 28, 2014 (1:56 pm)

    Interesting discussion, but needs a couple of corrections. First, the feds do provide a significant amount of funds for operating expenses. Some of it goes directly to transit operators (e.g., King County Water Taxi) and some to metropolitan planning organization (e.g., PSRC) for redistribution among the transit agencies and jurisdictions. Second, WSF reversed its earlier plan to eliminate Pier 50 at Colman Dock. See http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/ferries/colmanmultimodalterminal/

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