County Public Works Director Pete Ringen visited the yard last week and saw that the vessel's structure is starting to take shape. The ferry is being constructed in three modules, he said. Module 1 is the forward section of the hull; module 2 is the aft section of hull, and module 3 includes the passenger cabin with the wheelhouse.
"I’d say that on the whole, things are going very well," he commented this week. "I have been impressed with the shipyard's commitment to quality, and customer service."
The ferry is expected to go in service in early 2015, and construction is on track to reach that goal.
Ringen said the shipyard, in cooperation with the designer and the county's inspector, have identified some opportunities for cost saving changes.
"These cost savings may be offset by an upgraded steering system that we would like to have installed on the new ferry," Ringen said. "I have not seen the final numbers shake out, but I am reasonably confident we are very close to a no net cost increase.
"Some of the cost saving changes will be items like exhaust system lagging, shaft seals, and pumps. These items have not been installed or brought to the shipyard yet; they are simply under negotiation until the changes are formally approved."
The actual date the ferry goes in service will depend on when upgraded landings are ready on Puget Island and at Westport, Ore.
Clatsop County, in cooperation with the Oregon Department of Transportation, are constructing the Wesport dock. That project starts out with a temporary ramp construction in late 2014, and in early 2015, they'll shift the transfer span over to the newly re-constructed location where the current ramp exists.
"That project is scheduled to be wrapped up at the end of February, 2015, the same time as ferry delivery," Ringen said.
"It is my understanding the project designers for the Westport ramp are making every effort to minimize the disruption to ferry service with the way the new ramp is being constructed.
"That said, it is likely there will still be a need for a shut-down of ferry service for a short period, when they move the transfer span from the temporary ramp location to the permanent location. I don’t have the exact duration of that shut-down, or exact timeline for that, however I expect it is in the range of one to two weeks next winter prior to ferry delivery."
Meanwhile, Wahkiakum County will have to rearrange pilings and make some modifications on the Puget Island ramp, and the county is working with the US Army Corps of Engineers to schedule dredging of the ferry channel and berthing area.