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Full steam ahead for foot ferries

KINGSTON — While Aqua Express waits for a decision from Olympia, it and other supporters are working quickly to help float long-awaited foot ferries from Kingston to Seattle this fall.

With an expected start up date of Sept. 13, Aqua Express still has to establish a dock on the Kitsap side and coordinate transit schedules — chores the company feels it can take care of while it awaits authorization to operate the route.

The private ferry company officially filed its application with the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission April 8, asking for authorization to operate the Kingston-Seattle passenger-only ferry route this fall. Partner Darrell Bryan said the company is confident the UTC will support the application and authorize the operating certificate.

“I believe there is a great deal of interest in Olympia and the UTC will be moving quickly to get this set up,” Bryan said.

Currently, there is a 30-day period in which the public can submit comments supporting or protesting the application. There will then be a hearing in June or July when Aqua Express representatives will testify before the UTC board and present evidence that there is a public need for the service, Bryan explained. They will also need to prove they have the finances, equipment for the service and docking locations on both sides of the water.

Following that hearing, there will be another 30-day period in which the company will expect to hear the UTC decision.

As of Herald press time, Bryan said he did not know of any groups or individuals that were protesting the application.

In the meantime, Aqua Express is going to start looking for a general manager. This person will meet with community groups and develop marketing and operating plans and procedures.

Aqua Express is also going to meet with an engineering company in Seattle next week to help determine how much work needs to be done at the Port of Kingston for a POF docking facility.

Other interested parties are also working at top knot speeds to help bring the service together toward the September start date.

Kitsap Transit officials are working on coordinating transit drop off and pick up times that would coincide with the POF as well as seamless ticketing. They are also trying to get Washington State Ferry officials involved in the process.

“We have a lot of things moving along quickly,” Bryan said.

However, even after all the work to bring POFs to the Little City by the Sea, it’s the number of people that will show up and use the boats that will prove the effort to be a success or not, Bryan said.

“It’s one thing to talk about the need; it’s another thing to show up and take money out of your pocketbook to pay for commuter tickets,” Bryan said. “The folks using it will determine the success.

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