By NATALIE MARTIN
The King County Ferry District, which provides Vashon’s water taxi service, has selected the Bellingham-based All American Marine to design and build two new water taxis to replace its pair of 25-year-old leased vessels.
The new catamarans will replace the Rachel Marie and Melissa Ann — vessels that have been operating the district’s two routes from Vashon Island and West Seattle to downtown Seattle since 2010.
The new passenger ferries will each carry 250 passengers, 78 more than the boats they will replace.
Joe McDermott, chair of the ferry district and Vashon’s representative on the King County Council, said in a press release that the new boats will make water taxi service more reliable. The ferry district continues to see increased ridership on both its routes, and sometimes the most popular sailings fill, leaving riders on the dock.
“This action will lead to more reliability and capacity for water taxi riders,” McDermott said. “We continue to see increased ridership, and these new boats will help us meet the demand of King County residents looking for an alternative to single occupancy cars.”
The new water taxis will also have wider doors for quicker loading and unloading, more space for bicycles and will be more comfortable for passengers, according to ferry district officials.
Design and construction of the two vessels is expected to cost $11.8 million, 80 percent of which will be funded by the Federal Transit Administration. Construction is expected to begin in early 2014. The first vessel will be completed by mid-2015, followed by delivery of the second vessel in late 2015.
According to its website, All American Marine has been building boats in Bellingham for more than 20 years, and in 1998 it moved into the high-tech catamaran business when it established a partnership with New Zealand naval architect Nic deWaal.