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Passenger-only ferry plan temporarily stalled

KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston is hoping to get into the passenger-only ferry business as fast as possible. Funding in the way of a $3.5 million Ferry Boat Discretionary Program grant has been approved and a business plan has been sent to the governor. Port commissioners are now looking at several potential obstacles.

The federal grant is tied to the State Route 520 bridge becoming a tolled viaduct, which the state has until Sept. 30, 2009, to begin doing, said port Manager Mike Bookey. At the state level, the sale of the Chinook and Snohomish ferry boats will benefit either a public transportation district or a county ferry district, but not a port system. State Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) is working on House Bill 2730 which will allow port districts to receive funds from the sales as well.

"It's very complicated at the moment on the federal level," Bookey said.

"House Bill 2730, that would really help the port move along if it passes," said Port Commissioner Pete DeBoer. "It puts us in the loop for funding. But that bill is ongoing, it was read into the committee Jan. 21. Mike Bookey and (Commissioner) Tom Coultas went down and testified when the bill was heard. Things are popping here."

Bookey, along with the port commissioners, organized a business plan for a passenger-only ferry and sent it to Gov. Christine Gregoire last fall. They received preliminary feedback and several sections need to be rewritten, he said. The port has worked with the Aqua Express, Kitsap Transit and the Kingston Express Association (KEA) in the past to gain information about having a route. All three have either had a Kingston to Seattle route or attempted to get one going.

The POK has also made headway on the small boat storage facility it plans to construct on the A dock in the marina. The port has signed a contract, and is waiting for Caicos Corporation to sign its portion of the document before designs for the facility can get under way, Bookey said. After that, the port must resubmit its permits, which require the designs, and getting them approved could take about three months.

"We sent the contract up to the builders," DeBoer said. "We're getting really close to that, the commissioners all agreed on the scope and price. Once we get the final drawings done, the county's ready for us to come in for the permits. Once that happens, it will take about one month to build."

Beyond the small boat facility, the port has also examined the possibility of an amphitheater at Mike Wallace Memorial Park. DeBoer said Bookey is working on producing three different architect designs and the port is hoping for a concept drawing soon.

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