At the launch, Senator Magnuson told the audience that the ferries were being built with the aid of federal matching funds made available through the 1964 Urban Mass Transit Act. The various federal grant-in-aid programs are the result of strong congressional determination that our federal government effectively utilize the great contribution to be made by state and local government experts.
Designed by W. C. Nickum & Sons, and financed by $23 million in state bonds and federal funds, the four ferries of the Hyak class were enlarged versions of the Evergreen State class, built by Puget Sound Bridge and Drydock Company during the mid-1950s. The new ferries were 382 feet long, carried 2,067 passengers and 160 automobiles, and had more than three times the horsepower of the Evergreen State class. At a service speed of 20 knots, the new ferries were 43 percent faster.