The estimated cost of a new ferry continues to grow, and county officials are considering whether or not to adopt the latest design change.
Several years ago, when the board first began planning for a new ferry, commissioners said they wanted the vessel to be able to accommodate large tractor trailer truck combinations. A new ramp was designed and constructed, with dimensions suitable for large trucks.
Another engineering firm, Elliott Bay Design Group has been working on the design and plans for the new ferry; they and county commissioners hoped to put the construction project out for bid late this year.
Earlier this year, the ramp designer examined the ferry design and concluded that the vessel wouldn't accommodate loaded chip trucks. The vessel would sit so low in the water that at lower tide levels the weight of a chip trail would all shift to the single back axel when boarding the ferry. The designer alerted Public Works Director Pete Ringen, who contacted Elliott Bay.
The firm, project manager Curt Leffers and vice-president Brian King said Tuesday, redesigned the hull, expanding it to increase displacement and make the ferry ride higher in the water to eliminate the loading problem.
However, the new design will add about $500,000 to the cost of the ferry, King said, with the extra design work costing about $54,000.
"Essentially, you have a new vessel from the deck on down," King said. "It requires more steel."
The estimated cost for the new ferry was originally $2.9 million (2010), Ringen said. With increases in labor costs and the cost of steel since the time of the original estimate, the total is now about $3.9 million, and incorporating the new design would boost that to $4.4 million. The project will probably cost $5 milion total, he added.
The county has found federal and state funding for the project but will have to cover about $500,000 of the cost if the new design is used, Ringen said. The county can cover the increased cost, he said, but it will come from funding for other road projects and delay them.
After hearing the report, Commissioners Dan Cothren, Blair Brady and Lisa Marsyla said they wanted to consider the issue before approving the new design.
"I want to make sure we're doing the right thing for our county resources," Marsyla said.
Brady commented that he believed the board intended the ramp be able to accommodate most trucks, but not necessarily chip trucks, which don't normally use the ferry.
Cothren recalled that at the time the board approved the general plan for the new ferry (before Brady and Marsyla were elected), there was a lot of local chipping activity and there was a need for a detour when SR 4 is closed with slides.
However, he said, there was never an assumption there would be a major design change just for chip trucks.
"In hindsight, maybe we over reached on this," he said.
Marsyla suggested the board consider going back to the original design.
Ringen commented the board should consult colleagues on the Clatsop County commission to see what that board is planning for an upgrade of the ferry ramp at Westport.
"Do we want a Cadillac or a Buick," Cothren said. "We don't want to offset projects down the road."
Ringen said it would take a revision of the county's Six Year Road Construction Program to authorize the extra funding for the new design.
The board scheduled a public hearing for 11:30 a.m. on August 7 to discuss the matter there and also two other proposed amendments to the program.
Ringen, Leffers and King also noted that the board of commissioners should come up with a name for the new ferry; the name is required in pursuing US Coast Guard design approval.
Commissioners said they would solicit names from the public.
Ringen said the new ferry could be called the "Wahkiakum," which is the current name, but the existing ferry would have to be decommissioned. Another name such as "Wahkiakum II" or something else would be acceptable.