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All hands on deck for POF

KINGSTON — The contracts have been drawn up, the papers have been signed and now the engineers of the passenger-only ferry effort have rolled up their sleeves to dive into the details of bringing fast boats to Kingston.

Officials from all interested parties have been working to make POF from Kingston to Seattle a reality since earlier this month when Kitsap Transit authorized allowing private ferry company Aqua Express to operate a run.

While Aqua Express still needs approval from the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission, officials have started working with Kitsap Transit, Port of Kingston and Kitsap County to get a dock established in Kingston.

“We felt this was a good time to get started,” said Aqua Express partner Darrell Bryan during a planning session March 25.

The plan is do a study of the area’s eel grass and shoreline habitats and obtain development permits from the county to create a fast ferry dock and to establish an upland public transit system.

For now, a dock is expected to be constructed at the end of the port’s fishing pier until a more permanent facility can be built, said Port commissioner Marc Bissonnette.

However, before pilings can be sunk and passenger ramps erected, it needs to be determined how far out into the water this temporary dock will go so as not to disrupt any natural shoreline or eel grass habitats.

While the port has environmental studies of the area from 1999, the commissioners realized an updated inspection of the affected areas prior to application for development permits was needed.

“If Randi (Thurston of the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife) allows a pre-season inspection, it should only be a day of diving,” said Kitsap Transit transportation and land use planner Darryl Piercy about reevaluating the eel grass.

As for transporting passengers to and from the port area, KT executive director Dick Hayes said one bus has already been reserved for the upland transit system and he expects to divert a larger one that currently goes to the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal to Kingston when the POF is up and running.

Hayes also noted that he has been in contact with Washington State Ferries and residents who own property in the greater Kingston area in the hopes of securing more parcels for park and ride lots.

“We have both short term and longer term ability to add spaces,” Hayes said, adding that the transit agency’s Kiss N’ Ride, Flexcar and van pool programs will also be implemented to help decrease traffic.

Officials also agreed on the need for a representative from WSF to be involved with the planning process.

For now, Aqua Express will collaborate with the port to retain an engineer to design the temporary dock, Kitsap Transit will develop an upland transportation plan and the Port will be the lead agency for permits and environmental assessments.

The group will next meet at 8:15 a.m. April 14 at the Port of Kingston office to discuss the latest in the effort.

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