Work begins on South City ‘green’ ferries

The new ferryboats set to serve the future South San Francisco passenger ferry terminal will be the most eco-friendly in the nation — with the help of an unusual ingredient.

The two $8 million ferry boats, under construction in Seattle beginning today, will be 85 percent cleaner than federal regulations require and will also have solar panels and low wake, low wash hulls to limit the damage the boats’ wakes do on the shoreline, according to Water Transit Authority officials.

But the real nature-friendly attribute of the new boats is a fine mist of a “very pure form” of urea — purchased from providers in the agriculture industry, which uses it for fertilizer — that limits the pollutants and particles in the exhaust from the boats’ engines, Water Transit Authority Engineering Manager Mary Culnane said. Urea is the chief component in mammals’ urine.

“As the exhaust goes through and gets hit with the urea. there’s a chemical reaction that reduces the emissions,” Culnane said. Nitrogen oxides and particulates are reduced, Culnane said. The boats will burn up to roughly four gallons of urea mist an hour, which will cost the Water Transit Authority $73 a day, she added.

An additional “green” characteristic of the boat design is the exhaust stacks that direct the exhaust up and away from the water and anybody who might be standing on the docks as the boats pull away, she said.

The two 25-knot, 149-passenger boats will be brought down from Seattle in the summer and fall of 2008. The boats will have room for 34 bikes and a freshwater rinse so bicyclists can rinse the salt off their rides.

The boats will also have wireless Internet.

South San Francisco passengers will be the first on the boats for the new 30-minute South San Francisco-Oakland route that is set to begin in December 2008. Once two additional ferryboats are built, these two will used as spares during emergency services.

The ferry terminal project is “on target” for its opening date with the Water Transit Authority taking proposals for construction firms to build the $26 million terminal at Oyster Point, WTA spokeswoman Shirley Douglas said.

Some elected officials have expressed doubt about the future ferry service, saying it would create additional competition for other public transportation, but San Mateo County Supervisor Adrienne Tissier said it would round out the transportation network just in time for increased business expansion at Oyster Point.

“More people that are working in biotech there in South San Francisco will be easily accommodated by the ferry coming from the East Bay,” Tissier said.

dsmith@examiner.com


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