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Colman Dock
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Washington ferry system blames Trump tariffs for rising Colman Dock costs

Colman Dock ferry terminal. (KIRO 7)

Washington state is about two years into the massive renovation of Colman Dock in downtown Seattle, and the price-tag continues to rise by the millions, thanks in part to the Trump Administration’s tariff’s on foreign steel.

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The 25 percent tariff imposed on foreign steel caused U.S. steel prices to jump significantly in the first few months, but they have since returned to pre-tariff levels. Despite that return to lower costs, the head of the state ferry system, Amy Scarton, blamed steel prices for pushing the Colman Dock retrofit into the red. She said as much during a briefing in Olympia this week.

“We have seen quite a bit of cost increase in those steel prices, just since last fall, when I believe the tariffs went up,” Scarton told the Senate Transportation Committee. “That is probably the number-one cost driver of the section of our request that is asking for a cost increase. It’s steel.”  The ferry system said it has seen a 24 percent increase in their steel costs

Scarton asked the committee for another $95 million, testifying the original didn’t fully fund the project.

“It did not fund everything we needed to get done in the project, over six years,” she said. “It essentially funded what we needed in that first biennium to get the project started.”

The project is now estimated to cost $468 million, which is significantly higher than the original price-tag. Senator Curtis King told Scarton that project managers should be able to do a better job controlling costs.

“We seem to have just gone a little overboard in trying to accommodate everybody and everything and not paid a lot of attention to how this was done and who’s going to get to pay for it,” he said.

Ferry system engineer Nicole McIntosh answered Senator King, testifying that the agency is watching costs closely.

“We do, as we go through design, look at practical design,” McIntosh said. “The terminal building that we’re building is actually smaller than the one we have today because we right-sized it, which is our attempt to minimize the cost.”

The entire north end of the dock is now closed, as workers remove all the old wooden pilings that have held it up for far too long. Those creosote pilings are being replaced by steel. Later this year, the terminal building will come down. The passenger-only ferry slip should be open over the summer. It moves the King County Water Taxi and Kitsap ferries to a permanent home on the south end of the dock.

The entire project should be finished by 2023.

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