GALVESTON FERRY CHRISTENS NEW BOAT
GALVESTON – As bottles of champagne were broken against her bow, the blast of her horns cut through the clear fall air and huge columns of water rose into the sky from a tugboat just offshore, the 265-foot-long ferry John W. Johnson was christened this morning to the cheers and applause of more than 300 guests at the headquarters of the Texas Department of Transportation’s Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry System. Video
The distinguished gentleman for whom the vessel is named was a member of the Texas Transportation Commission from 1999 until 2007, including four years as its chairman. Mr. Johnson, now chairman of the Houston-based Permian Mud Service Inc., is the latest in a series of TxDOT leaders whom the department has honored by commissioning a ferry bearing his name.
Today’s dedication was conducted on the deck of the Johnson, and included remarks by state Sen. John Whitmire; Transportation Commissioner Ned S. Holmes, who presented Mr. Johnson with a proclamation from former President George W. Bush; and Mr. Johnson himself.
“Without outstanding individuals such as Johnny Johnson to serve on its boards and commissions, the great state of Texas could not function,” said Sen. Whitmire, who has served in the Texas Legislature for 38 years. “Our state is a better place because of his service, and I am a better state senator because of his friendship and counsel.”
Michael W. Behrens, a former TxDOT executive director for whom a ferry in TxDOT’s Port Aransas fleet is named, served as master of ceremonies for the event. Also in attendance were Transportation Commissioners William Meadows and Jeff Austin III; TxDOT’s new executive director, Phil Wilson; and a host of other federal, state and local officials, agency leaders and friends and business associates of Mr. Johnson and his family.
Members of the junior ROTC unit at Galveston’s Ball High School presented the colors, and a choir from the island’s KIPP Academy sang the national anthem and “Texas, Our Texas.” Mr. Johnson was joined by his wife and family in breaking the ceremonial bottles of champagne on one of the king posts at the boat’s bow.
The festivities then continued with a barbecue luncheon prepared by employees of Mr. Johnson.
The John W. Johnson, the sixth vessel in the Galveston fleet, is painted in the colors of Vanderbilt University and St. John’s School in Houston. Mr. Johnson is an alumnus of both schools.
The vessel can carry about 70 cars and light trucks or six to eight 18-wheel trucks weighing as much as 80,000 pounds each. It can accommodate as many as 500 passengers. It is 65 feet wide, has a draft of 9 feet 6 inches, and cruises at 12 knots.
TxDOT captains and crews will begin training aboard the Johnson immediately, and she will be placed into service when that process has been completed and the boat has received final certification from the Coast Guard.
The vessel, which like Galveston’s other boats is a double-ended ferry with twin pilot houses, was designed by Alan C. McClure Associates Inc., naval architects and engineers, of Houston and built at Conrad Shipyard LLC in Morgan City, La.
TxDOT’s Galveston-Port Bolivar Ferry System transports vehicles and passengers between Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula across a portion of Galveston Bay that is one of the busiest marine intersections in the world. The 2.7-mile, 18-minute transit includes parts of the Galveston Channel, the Houston Ship Channel and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway. Traveling between the same two points by road would require a drive of some 140 miles that can take as long as three hours.
In fiscal year 2011, Galveston-Port Bolivar ferries carried more than 1.4 million vehicles and almost 4.4 million passengers.