Spending on ferries
at 4:32pm by Joe Copeland
A recent auditor's report on state ferry construction costs seemed pretty damning, but a key state legislator is claiming that the audit didn't even get into the details it was intended for — namely why exactly a recent pair of state ferries cost so much more than their East Coast counterparts. Crosscut's John Stang reports:
A state audit of ferry construction costs did not look at what it was supposed to, claimed Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, who frequently birddogs the Washington State Ferries. The report, released Jan. 3 after more than a year of study, concluded that the ferry system's newly built 64-car ferries are among the most expensive ferries of that type to be built in the past 20 years. The final costs in 2011 dollars were $87.3 million for the this state's first 64-car vessel Chetzemoka and $48.5 million for the Massachusetts ferry that was the Chetzemoka's prototype.
The audit report blamed the high costs on difficulties in getting more than one in-state bid for ferry construction, Washington State Ferries design changes during construction, and the lack of appropriate shipyard apprentice programs. Regulations require ferries to be built by Washington shipyards.
Speaking at a Wednesday legislative briefing on the report though, Seaquist said the audit was originally conceived to look at extremely high design costs, at why the first 64-ferry had several operating problems including leaning to the side when loaded with cars, and at "fuel consumption costs that are through the roof." None of those factors were addressed in the Jan.3 report, Seaquist said.
He said the audit's original purpose was to find out where the state's money specifically went in building the 64-car ferries, which the state auditor's report did not do.