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Port of Kingston advertising for foot ferry proposals

KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston is looking for proposals for construction of a passenger ferry to run between the port and downtown Seattle.

The port made a nationwide request for proposals earlier this month. It hopes to have a new passenger ferry service on the water by late 2010.

Port Commissioner Pete DeBoer said the port is still deciding whether to contract for a new ferry or buy a used vessel.

"All along we've been looking for used boats," DeBoer said. "But there's not much out there."

The port is requesting proposals for a low-wake, aluminum-hulled ferry, capable of carrying up to 149 passengers and traveling 25 knots with a full load. The boat would be powered by twin diesel engines.

The ferry's single-passenger deck would include a mixture of booths and individual seats, along with a snack bar and restrooms, according to the proposal documents.

The port would pay for the boat using money from a $3.5 million Federal Transit Administration grant, awarded in 2008. It has already spent some grant money to install a barge and gangway.

DeBoer said the port needs to have a boat secured by early spring to meet the requirements of the grant. Otherwise it may need to file an extension. Eventually the port would like to buy a second vessel to serve as a back up boat, DeBoer said.

While the port is moving forward with procuring a vessel, it still has a lot of fundraising to do before launching.

Earlier this year the project was allocated $150,000 in operational funds was provided by the Legislature. DeBoer said the port wants to raise between $900,000 and $1 million to cover its operations costs for the first four years.

It will be seeking more grants and more partnerships with government and transit agencies.

Eventually the port plans to recover most, if not all, its costs of the ferry through fares.

The Port of Kingston boat would provide the first passenger ferry between Kingston to Seattle since Aqua Express ended its service in 2005 and relinquished its service certificate in 2008.

Aqua Express operated a former Washington State Ferries boat for about six months, but failed to turn a profit.

Port of Kingston commissioners believe they can make the service sustainable with more aggressive marketing and a more efficient vessel.

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