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November 12, 2014 at 4:01 PM

Ferry Tacoma out until summer; repair to cost at least $1.8M

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The ferry Tacoma sits on Wednesday at the Eagle Harbor Maintenance Facility on Bainbridge Island, where it is being repaired. (Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times)

The damaged state ferry Tacoma, which  stalled July 29 off Bainbridge Island due to an electrical failure, will cost at least $1.8 million to fix and will likely not return to service until summer 2015, officials said Wednesday.

In August, officials said the vessel would be out of service until at least December 2014.

The timeline has been pushed back because it has taken engineers longer than expected to pinpoint the cause of the failure and replacement parts for the 17-year-old ferry are not available, officials said.

New versions of the now-obsolete parts must be manufactured in Germany, according to officials.

The $1.8 million needed for repairs will come out of an emergency fund, said the ferry system’s new director, Lynne Griffith, who took over in September after a series of foul-ups that included the July 29 breakdown.

Speaking on the Tacoma at the ferry system’s Bainbridge Island maintenance dock Wednesday, engineer Mark Nitchman said the Tacoma stalled when two small fuses blew below deck and a protective device wasn’t triggered due to a design flaw.

The result was a chain reaction in the electrical systems that ended with a brief and contained but powerful flash explosion that was 20,000 degrees Celsius, hotter than the surface of the sun, Nitchman said.

The flawed protective device is out of warranty and the ferry system’s insurance has a deductible of $3.6 million, meaning the system must cover the cost of the repairs.

Two other ferries, the Wenatchee and Puyallup,  carry the same protective device, so crews are now taking extra precautions, Griffith said.

But what happened to the Tacoma was a freak incident, the first of its kind in tens of thousands of trips, Nitchman said.

Comments | Topics: Ferry Tacoma, Lynne Griffith, Washington State Ferries

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