Residents countywide in favor of Kingston foot ferry

KINGSTON — Of all the testimony that was given July 1 regarding establishing a foot ferry route from Kingston to Seattle, the overwhelming majority was in favor of allowing the service to start up this fall.

While there were some concerns, such as parking in Kingston and the impact on union ferry workers, members of the Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC) board heard loud and clear that residents — especially commuters — wanted the ferry run established.

Private ferry company Aqua Expresshas proposed providing a foot ferry service with 10 commuter sailings, five in the morning and five in the afternoon. Fares would be $5.25 one way or $10.50 round trip. Bicycles would be allowed at an additional cost of $3 one way and $6 round trip.

Approximately 80 people attended the WUTC’s public hearing at Kingston Junior High last Thursday concerning Aqua Express’ application for a certificate to operate the route. Nearly half of those who showed up testified and, witnesses reported, only one or two of them spoke against the application, including an Inlandboatmen’s Union advocate.

Support for the service overshadowed the opposition.

Residents testified that the region’s quality of life would improve, commute times would be shorter and the long tradition of using Puget Sound waters for mass transit would be retained.

Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee member and Kingston resident Rex Lee Carlaw recalled when his aunt would speak of riding ferries during the Mosquito Fleet days.

“I believe this is a restoration of what pre-dated the (existing) ferry service,” Carlaw said, noting he believes many will use it not only for commuting but also for special events if sailings were offered for weekend and night runs.

“I believe we in the Puget Sound area have a unique opportunity to use the waters for mass transit,” added Kingston resident Robert Anderson. “I enthusiastically support it.”

Anderson said he was concerned that one boat may not be enough for the amount of people he expects will use it. Other concerns addressed included the amount of parking available in Kingston and whether there would be discount or voucher programs available for frequent users.

Many commuters who testified said they have travel times that currently range from an hour and a half to two and a half hours one way. The new service would cut their commute times by half or more, they agreed.

Others testified that the service would help local businesses, many of which sometimes lack support in the downtown area.

“There are a lot of good businesses that have struggled, many have not,” said Main Street Ale House owner Rohn Rutledge. “The business community needs it and I believe the residents would like it and I believe the commuters would like it.”

Bainbridge Island Mayor Darlene Kordonowy said the additional service would relieve the traffic and congestion at Bainbridge’s ferry terminal during commute hours.

“I hope they don’t think we don’t like seeing them come through Bainbridge Island but from what I’ve heard the past few minutes, they could spend more time with their families,” she said.

The commission is expected to make its decision within the next few weeks and, if approved, Aqua Express plans to have its service up and running by October.

Today is the last day for written comments on the application. They can be sent to comments@wutc.wa. gov.

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