Reps. Smith and Bailey co-sponsor bill to improve process for how ferries are built

Reps. Norma Smith and Barbara Bailey are co-sponsoring bipartisan legislation that would direct the Washington State Ferries (WSF) to get out of the ferry-building business and instead focus on operating and maintaining the state’s current system. The 10th District lawmakers feel the concept, if enacted, would lead to a more reliable state ferry system in the future and get boats built quicker.

“This legislation is about refocusing Washington State Ferries and ensuring reliable ferry services in the future,” said Smith, R-Clinton. “Ferry communities have waited far too long for the system to self-correct. The Legislature needs to act swiftly on this measure. Our communities, commuters and small businesses rely on ferries as a way of life. It is time to give our marine highways the reforms they so desperately need.”

Under House Bill 2026, ferry construction and other system procurement would be managed by a small Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) staff using industry standard design-build and commercial purchase practices.

“We are reaching out to our Democratic colleagues who also understand that we cannot continue to do the same thing and expect different results. Our communities need the assurance that their ferry system will be reliable and efficient in the future,” said Bailey, R-Oak Harbor. “Our legislation is also about a more prioritized state government, which will lead to fewer costs to taxpayers. This is especially important in these difficult economic and budget times.”

House Bill 2026 would also make it easier for boat builders to work with the state in constructing new ferries and should help to reduce associated costs. The goal of the legislation is to streamline the process for boat building and ensure the boats are correct matches for the unique needs of each community.

“We are trying to simplify the process for those who build our boats,” said Smith. “This will ultimately lead to fewer costs for taxpayers.”

“We need the right boats for the right runs,” said Bailey. “We feel this bipartisan concept will help us arrive at this goal more quickly.”

Both legislators said the situation with the Island Home ferry bidding process has had a hand in the crafting of House Bill 2026. They said after almost a year of waiting for the bid to go out, communities are pushing for action, which the legislation begins to address.

House Bill 2026 has been referred to the House Transportation Committee, where Smith and Bailey hope it will receive a hearing.

Smith has also co-sponsored House Bill 2044, which would require WSF to create a comprehensive incident and accident investigation policy to submit to the Legislature by Nov. 1, 2009.


Washington State House Republican Communications