WSDOT Ferries Division announced on March 27 the Todd Pacific Shipyards was the apparent low bidder for a contract to construct a new 50-car vessel based on the Steilacoom II design. The formal bid opening was held earlier that day. Todd submitted the only bid with a proposed bid price of $25,985,125. The WSDOT engineer’s estimate is $16.8 million. WSDOT will conduct a bid evaluation over the next few days before announcing an award recommendation.
“While I am disappointed that the bid came in higher than our estimate, we will take a close look at the bid and keep moving forward to build a new 50-car ferry,” said David Moseley, Assistant Secretary, WSDOT Ferries Division.
Construction of the 50-car ferry is scheduled to take approximately 12 months. The new ferry is expected to begin service in May 2009, according to WSDOT Ferries.
As reported in the Everett Herald on March 28, Lloyd Brown, spokesman for the state Transportation Department, said, “We’re disappointed the bid came in higher than our estimate.
“We really don’t know what this means until we have time to go through and analyze more specifically what is in the bid and what are the reasons for the discrepancy,” he said.
Todd’s chief executive officer tried Thursday to provide answers in a three-page letter delivered to Moseley. Todd Chief Executive Stephen Welch wrote in detail of differences between the original concept of constructing a boat that “essentially looks like” the Steilacoom II, the loaned ferry from Pierce County and the contract requirements for the new boat.
He cited physical changes requested by the state, including adding a double bottom to fuel tanks, crew quarters, complying with newer safety and construction standards and paying higher costs of materials and labor.
“While each individual change may seem inconsequential, the sum of these changes has resulted in a vessel procurement that is not the Pierce County ferry,” he wrote.
Welch said the bid “will result in a significantly different and improved, but more costly, ferry.”
Nichols Brothers of Whidbey Island built the Steilacoom II ferry in 2005 for $12.5 million. Everett Shipyard at the time was the second low bidder at $13 million.
Nichols didn’t compete this time and Everett was bought earlier this year by Todd, the state’s largest shipbuilder. No firms other than Todd and Everett requested documents to submit a bid.
The contract which Todd bid on is is a “design-bid-build” contract, which the transportation department uses to move projects from start to finish faster.
Brown explained that rules for these contracts allow the state to either accept Todd’s offer and proceed or reject it and restart the procurement process. Trying to negotiate a lower price is not permitted, he said.
The lease with Pierce County for use of the Steilacoom II expires in May 2009.
The 50-car ferry is one of three vessels the state plans to build to replace the Steel Electric-class car ferries yanked from service last November.
This summer, bids will be sought for the other two boats, both of which are to be of the larger-sized Island Home class.
The state budget contains $85 million for all three boats.
WSDOT Ferries reported that it is building six new ferries over the next four years. Three new 144-car ferries that will be used throughout the WSDOT Ferries system will be under construction by next year, with he first 144-car ferry expected to be in service by early 2011.