Inslee signs transportation package into law with funding for new electric ferries

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Laurel Demkovich / The Spokesperson Review

OLYMPIA — New funding for transportation over the next 16 years means new transit, bicycle and pedestrian projects, road maintenance and the electrification of Washington’s ferry fleet.

During a visit to the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal, Governor Jay Inslee on Friday signed a number of transportation and climate bills, including the revenue portion of the $17 billion transportation package.

“This is another step forward in revolutionizing our transportation system and in revolutionizing our energy system in Washington state,” Inslee said.

Department of Transport Secretary Roger Millar said during the signing on Friday that the package will allow the state to transition its ferry fleet to cleaner electric and hybrid vessels.

The package is “important to transportation in our state,” Millar said.

In addition to a number of local and statewide highway and transit projects, the 16-year program provides $3.5 million for the initial process of new hybrid vessels and electrification of terminals. It is also providing more than $14 million for the construction of new hybrid electric vessels and more than $8 million for the electrification of terminals.

In January 2020, Inslee signed an executive order directing the ferry system to transition to a zero-emissions fleet. With the new funding signed on Friday, Inslee said the hybrid-electric ferries will “cruise cleanly and quietly on the highways of the sea.”

The funding is part of a larger electrification plan the Department for Transport is launching this year. The plan calls for the construction of 16 new hybrid electric vessels, the conversion of six existing vessels and the electrification of 16 terminals by 2040.

According to the department, state ferries burn more than 18 million gallons of diesel fuel each year. When an electrification plan is in place, the ministry estimates it will reduce emissions by up to 53% by 2030 and 76% by 2040.

To achieve the goal of a zero-emissions fleet, DOT is focusing on three areas: building new hybrid-electric vessels, converting six vessels to hybrid-electric, and developing terminal charging infrastructure.

Funding from the transportation package will be enough to begin work on four new hybrid vessels, to convert three giant vessels and to power five terminals, DOT spokeswoman Suanne Pelley said.

This is in addition to a new hybrid ship, recently named “Wishkah”, which had already been funded. Its construction will begin this year, with an end goal of 2025.

The conversion of the first existing ferry will start at the end of 2022.

Charging stations must also be in place to operate an electric fleet. This means that the department will have to build charging infrastructure, which is currently planned in 16 of its terminals.

Charging a ferry begins with making connections to an existing power grid from local utility or distribution lines. Once this is configured, power can be sent to a converter at the terminal. It must then be passed to the pricing system on the sail wall, or the area where ships are berthed at a terminal. From here a ship can hook onto the load arm which will have a large square for boats to hoist themselves onto.

However, all the necessary infrastructure to do so has yet to be built.

Preliminary engineering work has already begun at some terminals to determine how to get power from the main sources to the load arm the boats will use, Pelley said. The five that have received funding under the transportation program are in Seattle, Bainbridge Island, Clinton, Kingston and Bremerton.

With state funding passed this year as well as previous federal and state funds, the project now has $1.3 billion to work with, Pelley said. But there is still a lot of work to do.

She said the department will continue to review federal and state grant funds to secure money for future work. She said there had been “incredible support” from the Legislature and Inslee for the plan. Funding from the Legislative Assembly this year will get much of the work started.

“As with all megaprojects, you’re biting into pieces at a time,” she said.

Along with the transportation package revenue bill, Inslee on Friday signed a number of bills aimed at reducing methane emissions and creating cleaner buildings. The new laws would reduce methane emissions from landfills, divert organics and food waste from landfills, and extend the state’s clean building policy to buildings larger than 20,000 square feet, such as multi-family buildings.

“We’re going to defeat climate change not by one quick fix,” Inslee said. “We’re going to have to do a thousand things.”

At a later event at Pierce Transit’s Tacoma Dome station, Inslee signed the Supplemental Transportation Budget, the Transportation Package Spending Bill, and a number of bills to invest in manufacturing projects. of clean technologies.

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