JOHN CURLEY AND JAKE SKORHEIM

Inslee: ‘We’re going as fast as humanly possible’ getting ferry boats in the water

Apr 28, 2024, 11:33 AM | Updated: May 13, 2024, 4:13 pm

inslee ferry...

Gov. Jay Inslee (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

As Washington residents and ferry users become “justifiably frustrated” with the state’s ferry system, Governor Jay Inslee is pushing to keep electric ferries in the fold long after his tenure as governor has ended.

“We’re getting boats in the water as fast as humanly possible,” Inslee said on The John and Shari Show on KIRO 97.3 FM. “There are five electric boats that are going through the RFP process to get them in as fast as humanly possible.

“There have been some folks who’ve argued that we should abandon the current plan of having electric drive boats and go to diesel,” Inslee continued. “The problem with that is that will actually slow down the process.”

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Inslee argued that switching from the originally-planned electric ferries back to diesel-powered ferries would restart the bidding process — delaying everything by a year or two. He also stated diesel technology is no faster to install than electric at this point.

“Electric boats now have mature technology,” Inslee said. “In Norway, they’re working great. The crews love them, the people love them. It’s really mature technology.”

Inslee’s plan to go electric is to curb and reduce the approximate 309 million pounds of carbon produced from approximately 15 million gallons of diesel the ferry boats consume.

The bids for construction of an electric ferry are due this August, with the award contract coming in October. It’s estimated to take two years to build.

“But we have the financing to do this right now. I’m happy to do it now,” Inslee said. “(The funding) comes through the Climate Commitment Act, so we have a way to finance this. I’m happy we want to build those boats. Believe me, people want boats in the water. I do too.”

“We’re still looking at 10 years out? You declared it in 2018 that we’re not going to get the boats until 2028,” John Curley, co-host of The John and Shari Show, asked. “For the people that are trying to live their life, as you do, back and forth from Bainbridge or people going to Bremerton, what do you say to them now? Just be patient?”

“I would say they have the same frustration that their governor does. I’ve experienced the same frustration with them regarding this,” Inslee answered. “What I would say is it’s real, it’s justified and we’re going as fast as humanly possible.”

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Inslee explained one of the delays came from the state’s desire to build the boats domestically. Governor Inslee and his team found a company totally committed to the idea, but the company was quickly sold to a hedge fund and the hedge fund pivoted from the particular program regarding constructing ferries in Washington.

“So we couldn’t reach a deal with them,” Inslee said. “They refused to give us a guarantee of the boat and so we had to open (the bidding) up. The bigger problem was their refusal to stand by the product and give us a performance guarantee.

“I will just tell you, if they continued to own that company, we would have been two years ahead of the schedule,” Inslee added.

Listen to John Curley and Shari Elliker weekday afternoons from 3 – 7 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

John Curley and Jake Skorheim on KIRO Newsradio 97.3 FM
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John Curley and Jake Skorheim

John Curley and Jake Skorheim

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Inslee: ‘We’re going as fast as humanly possible’ getting ferry boats in the water