Work on the newest Washington state ferry will start in January, and it’s expected to begin service in 2018. Its name must have “statewide significance.” The finalists are Cowlitz, Sammamish and Suquamish.

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With work on the ferry system’s fourth Olympic Class vessel about to begin, the Washington State Transportation Commission is seeking public input on potential names for the 144-vehicle boat.

The choices, at this point at least, are Cowlitz, Sammamish or Suquamish.

The state’s naming guidelines say ferry designations should have statewide significance and represent Washington’s image and culture, such as names of tribes, bodies of water or geographic locations.

The state’s first three Olympic Class vessels, which have room for 1,500 people and 144 cars, have been named Chimacum, Samish and Tokitae.

Washington State Ferries said this week a notice to proceed was signed with shipbuilder Vigor Shipyards, formerly Todd Shipyards, and that work on the fourth Olympic Class boat should begin in January.

Along with the Tokitae, Samish and Chimacum, the fourth Olympic Class ferry improves fleet reliability and safety by replacing four of the state’s oldest ferries built during the 1950s and 1960s.

Funding for the $122 million ferry is included in the Connecting Washington transportation package signed into law this year.

Two of the four new Olympic Class vessels already are in service. The Tokitae was put on the Mukilteo-Clinton route in June 2014. The Samish was put into service on the Anacortes-San Juan Islands route last June.

The Chimacum will replace one of the older vessels on the Seattle-Bremerton run in 2017.

The fourth ferry, whatever its name turns out to be, is to join the fleet in 2018, according to Washington State Ferries.

The two ferries completed so far came in on time and under budget, the ferry system said.

Anyone interested in learning more about each of the three names under consideration can visit the Transportation Commision’s website at Comments and other input regarding the names can be emailed to: