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With new funding, Washington State Ferries ramps up electric ferry plans

While the new plans were signed into the state budget earlier this year, there's still a lot of work to make the hybrid ferry system a reality.

SEATTLE — Washington State Ferries is gearing up plans for their hybrid-electric ferries and electric vehicle infrastructure. 

This comes after Gov. Jay Inslee signed a nearly $17 billion transportation package that will pay for projects across the state, including $1.5 billion for the ferry system.

The long-term electrification program, which includes16 new vessels as well as the conversion of six existing vessels, will reduce emissions from Washington State Ferries by over 50%.

While the first converted vessel won't hit the water until sometime in 2024, the big effort now is behind-the-scenes as engineers work to pull power into ferry terminals.

In Seattle, the plan is to get city power from Pier 48 to run through a new underwater cable to Colman Dock at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3.

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Each vessel will have a robotic arm that stretches out and connects to the charge which will take about 20 minutes to complete while people are loading on and off. 

The plans could seem risky for people already under stress as WSF experiences staffing shortages and delays. 

"We're not the first doing this. It's demonstrated, so taxpayers shouldn't need to worry about whether this is a risky technology. You know, there are over 70 vessels operating around the world," said Matt Von Ruden, System Electrification Program Administrator at Washington State Department of Transportation's Ferries Division. 

Von Ruden is also hoping new ferries into the fleet, which is now running 21 vessels, will help the aging system.

"We're not stopping the clock, they continue to age, and we need to replace those vessels.Replacing them responsibly is what's so great about this bill," Von Ruden said. 

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