The keel was laid for the replacement Keller Ferry in special ceremonies March 28, in Rainier, Ore.
Washington State Department of Transportation Secretary Paula Hammond took part in fixing the first weld to the keel.
The vessel is scheduled for delivery in May of 2013. It then will go through final assembly in Grand Coulee and a number of tests before going into service.
The vessel is expected to get its name soon. An online survey that took suggestions has been completed.
All but three of the active ferries in the state of Washington carry American Indian names, and this new ferry is expected to continue that tradition.
The ferry is being funded through cooperative agreements between the federal government ($9.6 million), state funds ($361,000) and $2 million from the Colville Confederated Tribes.
The current Keller Ferry, the Martha S, has been in service since 1948.
A Foss Maritime Company spokesman, Mark Houghton, said the vessel will be trucked to Crescent Bay boat launch area in three pieces and assembled there. He said a number of Foss employees will accompany the vessel sections to make the final construction assembly.
The new ferry will be 116 feet long and have a 22 standard auto capacity, as well as space for 149 walk-on passengers.
The current ferry has a capacity of 12 cars.