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Aqua Express is given a green light

OLYMPIA — The Washington State Utilities and Transportation Commission approved Aqua Express’ application July 9 and will allow the company to operate a passenger-only ferry service from Kingston to Seattle starting this fall.

“There is a substantial need for the proposed passenger-only ferry service between Kingston and Seattle and a strong desire by the public for such a service,” said the three members of the WUTC panel in a prepared statement. The commission is the state agency in charge of regulating commercial ferries operating within Washington state.

Commissioners received more than 50 comments from members of the public since Aqua Express turned in its application in April and remarks were overwhelmingly in favor of the company’s permit for the service.

While the Inlandboatmen’s Union of the Pacific withdrew its protest to the application, the commission noted that it did consider the issues raised by the organization.

In order to grant the permit, the WUTC had to determine whether a need existed, and whether the company had sufficient resources to operate the proposed service and had to evaluate how the service would affect public agencies, such as Washington State Ferries.

“Indeed, the net effect compliments the underlying purposes of the state transportation system, including the efficient and convenient transportation of people, cars and goods across or around bodies of water,” the commissioners stated in their written order. “We applaud the efforts of the company, Kitsap Transit and state and local representatives who have worked long and hard to promote passenger-only ferry service between Kingston and Seattle.”

Aqua Express partner David Tougas had not heard the news as of Friday morning and said he was surprised by the fast response of the board.

“That happened a lot quicker than I expected,” Tougas said with a laugh. “Wow — I feel like since the first of July meeting that things have really been rolling and things have been really moving ahead quickly. This is one more example of things moving ahead quickly and I think we are on track to start on schedule. I’m very excited about it.”

Right now, Aqua Express is working with the Port of Kingston to design a permanent dock for the foot ferries that will moor in Kingston and is also creating a management team. The scheduled startup date for the service is Oct. 1.

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