WETA Purchases Two New Ferries

Water Emergency Transportation Authority This artist rendering depicts one of the 400-passenger ferries that the Water Emergency Transportation Authority has ordered. The manufacturer will deliver two of the vessels in early 2017. Two more are scheduled for delivery in 2018, one of which will be able to provide service to the new Seaplane Lagoon terminal. The new vessels will produce lower emissions than any currently operating ferry in the U.S. of similar size and capacity.

 

Facing growing demand for ferry service, the Water Emergency Transportation Authority’s (WETA) board of directors authorized the purchase of two more 400-passenger ferry vessels at its Oct. 6 meeting. 

WETA previously ordered two ferries that are scheduled for delivery in 2017. The new order is for identical vessels from the same company, Vigor Kvichak LLC, with delivery set for the end of 2018.

WETA’s fleet will now be able to provide service to the new Seaplane Lagoon terminal when it is completed. An $8 million construction funding gap remains. The operating funds are expected to come from a new bridge toll. 

Reordering from the same company will save WETA an estimated $3 million versus starting from scratch with a new company, and the ferries will arrive a year sooner. Acquiring the new vessels from the same builder means that a total of four ferries will share common propulsion and emissions machinery. This offers savings when it comes to maintenance and crew training. The two ferries will cost $30 million.

WETA’s specifications for the new ferries will rank them as having the lowest emissions of any currently operating passenger ferry in the U.S. of similar speed and capacity. The clean emissions standards are being met by use of a special catalytic converter system that injects liquid urea into the exhaust stream converting harmful nitrogen oxide into nitrogen, water and tiny amounts of carbon dioxide. Urea is a common chemical found in the urine of mammals and widely used in agricultural fertilizers. 

“Our current assumption is that a permanent increase in operational funding will be in place in 2020,” said Kevin Connolly, WETA’s manager of planning and development. “By that time, we anticipate capacity limits at the Main Street terminal will also create the need for the Seaplane Lagoon terminal and service to meet demand.” 

The city competed for ferry terminal construction funding from the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program in 2016 but was unsuccessful. City staff is currently preparing a ferry terminal grant application for Alameda County transportation funds.

 

 

Richard Bangert posts stories and photos on his blog Alameda Point Environmental Report.