Standing on the bow of the newest ferry to set sail from Galveston’s shore, Hope Andrade’s diminutive frame could have been dwarfed by the hulking, nearly 300-foot vessel or the expansive horizon behind her. Instead, she stood beaming at the boat’s impressive amenities and massive structure that were a point of pride and of contrast for her petite stature.
“I stand before you today, measuring 5 feet tall,” Andrade said. “But I’m filled with enough pride in all we have accomplished together that I feel I could reach up and touch the Texas sky.”
The Esperanza “Hope” Andrade, the first new ferry added to the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) fleet in over a decade, made its maiden voyage off the coast of Galveston on Monday, March 4. The christening ceremony for the 293-foot vessel took place on International Women’s Day, a fitting date to celebrate the first Galveston Ferry named for a woman and for a Latina.
The state-of-the-art vessel operated by TxDOT is the namesake of the longtime business and civic leader who holds several distinctions in San Antonio and Texas history.
Andrade was the first woman to serve as chair of the Texas Transportation Commission and the first Latina Texas Secretary of State, serving under former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was present at the ceremony.
“I couldn’t think of anyone more deserving,” Perry said in remarks honoring Andrade, who holds a place in the San Antonio Women’s Hall of Fame, the Texas Transportation Institute’s Hall of Honor. Most recently, she was the inaugural inductee to the VIA Metropolitan Transit Hall of Honor, where she served as an influential Board member and Board chair.
Hundreds of yellow roses spelled out “HOPE” and contrasted the grey clouds and calm seas that stretched out behind the lectern where a sometimes-tearful Andrade thanked attendees, including family members, business colleagues and friends, for their unwavering support throughout her impressive career of public service.
“The love and encouragement I have received from my family sustains me,” she said. “It has made my life in public service possible but also, so very worth it.”
The former transportation commissioner also thanked the 13,000 TxDOT employees who she recognized as the agency’s most valuable assets. “They are what makes this agency the very best,” she said and wished for safe passage for the ferry’s crews and passengers.
“It has been my privilege and great honor to be part of the TxDOT family and the work we continue to do together, as we set sail for evermore promising horizons,” she added.
TxDOT Executive Director Marc Williams, TxDOT Houston District Engineer Eliza Paul, former State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, and VIA Metropolitan Transit Board Chair Fernando Reyes, who succeeded Andrade on the VIA Board in 2021 and serves as the La Prensa Texas Newspaper Board Chair, were among the dignitaries in attendance.
The impressive ferry will operate daily and is free to ride. It can carry 495 passengers and 70 passenger vehicles, or eight 18-wheeler trucks per trip. It will connect Galveston to Port Bolivar, a busy maritime hub since the 1930s.
“The debut of the Esperanza “Hope” Andrade ferry heralds a new era characterized by efficiency, sustainability, and safety,” TxDOT said in a news release that touted the vessel’s cutting-edge propulsion technology and pioneering battery energy storage systems. “Hope Andrade’s indelible mark on Texas transportation is beyond compare,” it continues. “With the christening of this vessel bearing her name, we pay homage not only to her remarkable accomplishments but also to the beacon of progress she embodies.”