North End group still trying for foot ferry

KINGSTON — November 2006 brought Proposition 1 to a grinding halt, showing Kitsap County voters were not ready or willing to foot the bill for a countywide passenger-only ferry system. Since then, Kitsap Transit has been desperately treading water to find funds to continue the Bremerton POF services.

Which has left Kingston drifting in the current — something the Kingston Express Association hopes to remedy. The group has plans to start a ferry run by volunteers out of Kingston to Seattle.

“We’re working on a (federal Ferry Boat Discretionary Program) grant with the Port of Kingston,” said KEA manager Nels Sultan. “We’ve agreed to work together just for this grant application for now.”

Sultan also mentioned the port could go to Aqua Express — a system which ran a Kingston-Seattle foot ferry run from Jan. 18, 2005 to Sept. 30, 2005 before ceasing operation service — if it receives the grant. But Aqua Express spokesman Jim Boldt said there has been no discussion between the two organizations on the subject.

“We signed a form last night to support the Kingston Express Association,” said Port of Kingston Commissioner Pete DeBoer Friday morning. “Basically the commission is in favor of whatever works to get a foot ferry back in Kingston.”

“In addition, we’ve had no contact with the Kingston Express folks,” Boldt said. “We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do when the suspension runs out.”

Aqua Express received two extensions in October 2005 and July 2006 on its suspension of service after the foot ferry called it quits due to low ridership.

Kingston first became aware of the KEA in fall 2006, and the has been making waves with local organizations and state government since. After the failure of Kitsap Transit’s plan to increase sales tax by 3/10th of a cent, the KEA has been searching for funding and support of its own.

In March, KEA requested to be put on the Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council’s agenda for last Wednesday’s meeting, hoping for the council’s help in obtaining federal grants.

“Our recommendation for funding was done in 2006 and will cover 2008, 2009 and 2010,” said KRCC executive director Mary McClure. “We won’t pick up actual funding work again until 2008, or possibly 2009. Nothing can be made to happen now, and I think that’s one source of frustration for them.”

Sultan and the KEA have repeatedly expressed their feelings and frustrations that Kitsap Transit has focused its funding and efforts on the Bremerton passenger-only system, leaving Kingston in a lurch.

“There are two points to that,” McClure said. “One is improved ferry service in Bremerton has been acknowledged as the No. 1 priority countywide, and that goes along with growth management in the area. Bremerton is a regional center to the county... We’re also focusing on preserving existing service. It’s a fact there’s already a Bremerton service, which puts it farther along the queue. With very stretched resources, this is an ugly necessity.”

“I am concerned that no one is pursuing this funding for a Kingston foot ferry, and the entire issue is drifting,” Sultan wrote in an e-mail to 23rd District State representatives Sherry Appleton and Christine Rolfes. “It appears no entity in Kitsap County is seeking federal grants for foot ferries at present, (other than Kitsap Transit, which is pursuing funding for Bremerton exclusively). Two months after the Kitsap Transit election failure, there is still no countywide direction.”

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