Kingston Port in the market for a used ferry
December 4, 2009 · Updated 10:20 AM
KINGSTON — A new passenger-only ferry is no longer in the cards to connect Kingston to downtown Seattle.
The Port of Kingston commissioners decided on Nov. 25 that, instead of waiting for a new vessel to be built, it would serve their best interest to purchase a used vessel.The port could lose a $3.5 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration if the service isn't operational by September 2010. The port was awarded the grant in 2008.
"We're not sure if we can get another grant to last through the construction phase," Kingston Port Commissioner Pete DeBoer said.
In September, the port started the bidding process for a new ferry. All American Marine submitted the lone proposal for a low-wake, aluminum-hulled ferry, to carry 149 passengers, which the port accepted. The construction phase could last up to a year, which would have pushed past the September 2010 requirement in the grant. Construction also carried with it certain risks, such as cost overruns and delays, DeBoer said.
"In the meantime, we were looking at really good used boats," DeBoer said. "There are a few that need some tuning up but they're serviceable." The port is eyeing several vessels, including one that's two years old and one that's a sister ship to the Vashon/Seattle route.
The port will return the security bond back to the Bellingham-based boat builders.
Now that construction of a new ferry is a no-go, the port will begin serious negotiations for a used ferry at the beginning of the year. Commissioners are looking to have a boat secured by early spring.
Commissioners are hoping the service will eventually earn enough to pay its own way. In the meantime, it will likely need subsidies for the first four or five years, DeBoer said.
The Legislature allocated the project $150,000 on operational funds earlier this year. The goal is to raise between $900,000 to $1 million. The port also will work to form partnerships with government and transit agencies.
The commissioners sees income potential in using the ferries for tourism and charter services.
"We're just envisioning that. We don't have anything in place at all," DeBoer said.
It is also pushing ahead on the infrastructure for a passenger-only ferry. The walkway from the port to the passenger-only service — which now serves as a hang out for marine life — is being refurbished into something more suited to humans, DeBoer said.
The Kingston route has been without a passenger-only ferry since Aqua Express ended its service in 2005 and relinquished its service certificate in 2008. That service operated for about six months.
This story has been edited to correct that the foot ferry will travel from Kingston to downtown Seattle.