Cantwell Announces $5 Million for Washington State Ferries for Critical Gear Upgrades

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, announced that the Washington State Department of Transportation — Ferries Division (WSF) will receive $5 million in federal funding to make critical upgrades on two Issaquah-class passenger ferries. The money will help WSF purchase new reduction gear components to replace outdated parts. This upgrade is part of critical preservation efforts to ensure a state of good repair for the ferries. The funding comes from the Federal Transit Administration’s Passenger Ferry Grant (PFG) Program, which provides competitive funding for projects that support passenger ferry systems in urbanized areas.

On May 26, 2020, Senator Cantwell sent a letter in support of Washington State Ferries (WSF) grant application to USDOT Secretary Elaine Chao. “WSF is the nation’s largest ferry system serving over 24.3 million riders in 2019, including 10.6 million vehicles/drivers and 13.7 million passengers,” Senator Cantwell wrote. “This project is a critical element to achieving a state of good repair for WSF’s vessels. Reduction gears are a key component of Issaquah Class ferry propulsion systems, and a failure of this component will pose a safety risk to riders, crew, the environment and the vessel.”

The new reduction gear components will replace outdated components that have reached or exceeded their 20-year life cycle. WSF estimates that an unplanned replacement of a failed reduction gear would cause a 15-month period of lost service, which would cost WSF approximately $6,000 per day, or roughly $3 million dollars per failure.   

Senator Cantwell is strong supporter of Washington state’s ferry system. Earlier this year, Cantwell helped secure $39.2 million in funding for Washington State Ferries for COVID-19 economic relief from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In January, Senator Cantwell announced $1.5 million in federal funding in January to help convert a ferry on the Seattle-Bainbridge Island route from diesel to hybrid-electric power.