Foot ferry faces delay until 2005

KINGSTON — Despite a long push to start in 2004, Aqua Express officials have finally announced that Jan. 18 will be the official beginning for the passenger-only ferry service from Kingston to Seattle.

The company has been stating for nearly a year that it would start its service this month but general manager Brian Grantham said construction permits were issued later than expected.

“Physically, it’s not possible to have the construction done (by end of December),” he said.

Caicos Corp. of Port Gamble, which is building the docking facility, is currently onsite and starting construction, which Grantham hopes to be completed by the week of Jan. 10. Once the docking facility is completed, there will be free public demonstrations the week prior to Jan. 18.

Passengers will access the POF barge from the existing fishing pier. There will a 120-foot walkway from the pier to an 80-foot by 5-foot gangplank. The gangplank will have stairs and an ADA-handicapped accessible ramp and connect to the 40-foot by 90-foot barge, where passengers will load onto the ferry.

The walkway will be enclosed and have skylights and windows, Grantham explained, however, there are no plans for covering the gangplank at this time. The loading barge will be uncovered as well, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be enclosed in the future, he said.

“Once the structure is built or is close to being built, we can identify what needs to be addressed,” Grantham explained. “We want to get the big pieces in place, then we’ll make modifications as necessary.”

Port of Kingston Harbor Master Tom Berry said the public fishing pier is expected to remain open to the public during construction, but users need to be aware of the construction work.

An additional structure on the upland portion of the project includes a ticket booth at the entrance of the fishing pier. Riders will also be able to purchase tickets in Seattle, on the boat and eventually, online.

As for food and beverages on the boat, Purple Fig Catering of Port Orchard will be the primary vendor, serving gourmet food and both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Other local businesses that will be providing various services include S&J Graphics and The Coffee Exchange of Kingston, Dan Youra Studios of Port Hadlock and Printery Communications of Port Townsend.

The foot ferry will offer a 40-minute ride between terminals and will dock at Pier 56 in Seattle, at the Argosy Cruises facility.

The company also recently purchased a 150-passenger vessel should the primary boat (the former Washington State Ferry Tyee) reach its 250-person capacity or if it needs to be taken out of service for maintenance.

“It’s very important for us to run this right,” Grantham said. “So we went out and purchased a back-up vessel.”

Grantham said the company, with the two boats and the facility, represents a $3 million investment and that Aqua Express will be working with the chamber of commerce and other community groups to encourage commuters as well as residents to support the company.

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