Vigor Industrial, Seattlehas inked a deal with Washington State Ferries (WSF) to construct a fourth Olympic-class ferry for the state's fleet. WSF signed a Notice to Proceed last week with Vigor for the 144-vehicle ferry, with work scheduled to begin in January. The new ferry is funded through the Connecting Washington transportation funding package.

The new ferry will join sisterships Tokitae, Samish and Chimacum, completing a program to replace four of the state’s oldest ferries built during the 1950s and 1960s.

“Our top priority is keeping the ferry system safe and reliable for the millions of commuters, freight haulers and travelers who depend on us every year,” said WSF chief of staff Elizabeth Kosa. “Thanks to state lawmakers and critical funds from Connecting Washington, we are able to meet some of the ferry system’s most urgent needs, including building this new ferry.”

WSH said that construction of the new ferry would support approximately 500 jobs at Vigor’s Seattle shipyard and contractors around the region. The budget to build the vessel is $122 million, and delivery is scheduled for mid-2018. The Washington State Transportation Commission is leading a public process to determine the fourth ferry’s name.

According to WSH, Olympic-class ferries are equipped with the latest emergency-evacuation and fire-suppression systems, two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant elevators, and wider car-deck lanes that provide more room for passengers to access their vehicles. The agency added that the vessels’ hull design reduces wake and provides better fuel efficiency, while cleaner burning engines reduce emissions.

The first Olympic-class ferry, Tokitae, was christened in March 2014. The Samish followed in May 2015. The third vessel, to be named Chimacum, is under construction at Vigor and is on schedule to enter service on the Seattle/Bremerton route in early 2017, WSH said.