— Editor’s note: This version corrects the amount of money granted to the Port of Kingston, and the uses of the money, reported in an earlier version. The earlier report was based on information released by SoundRunner’s general manager.
KINGSTON — The Port of Kingston will use $977,000 in federal and matching funds to improve docking and fueling for the SoundRunner boats, and to install a fiber line that will be needed to connect to a regional transit fare system.
The money — $764,000 from the Federal Highway Administration and $213,000 in matching funds from the Port of Kingston — will not be used for the participation fee required to join ORCA, the regional transit fare system, as reported Aug. 19 by SoundRunner general manager Meisha Rouser.
Project Manager Kori Henry said Rouser submitted a grant for that funding on July 29, but has not received a response.
The port learned Aug. 19 that SoundRunner’s grant request had been approved. All told, the Federal Highway Administration is awarding $25.9 million in transportation grants in Washington state and $430 million nationwide.
The port’s matching funds will come from a Puget Sound Regional Council grant of $85,000; State Route 520 bridge-toll credits of $50,000; and $78,000 in port funds.
The port hasn’t identified where in the budget its share of funds will come from, but Henry said it will “probably come from investments.”
Here’s how the money will be spent, according to Henry:
— $565,000 for modifications to the SoundRunner dock to improve docking.
— $350,000 to add a fuel line and waste pump to the SoundRunner dock, and extend utilities to the waiting areas.
— $42,000 to modify the boats to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. Passengers currently embark via an opening in the railing that is 32 inches wide. It will be widened to 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs.
— $15,000 to improve the transfer span, including an awning to protect passengers as they board and disembark in inclement weather.
Kingston’s grant application was reviewed by the Puget Sound Regional Council for consistency with the long-range regional transportation plan, Transportation 2040, and regional policies.
Looking forward to joining ORCA
ORCA, or “One Regional Card for All,” was founded by five transportation agencies. They contributed funds to cover the costs of establishing the system. When SoundRunner joins the system, it will be required to share some of those costs. How much SoundRunner should pay has not been determined.
Rouser and others believe joining ORCA is critical to building ridership. The card can be used for payment of public transport fares in the Puget Sound region. It’s expected to make it more convenient for commuters to transfer from SoundRunner to other forms of public transportation on the mainland.
ORCA is popular with employers because they can subsidize their employees’ commutes without having to deal with multiple agencies.
A survey of Kitsap Transit customers commuting to the Bainbridge ferry from North Kitsap found that 98 percent use ORCA, Rouser said.
SoundRunner will join ORCA as an affiliate of Kitsap Transit. The port paid Kitsap Transit $5,600 to get an estimate on the cost of joining; the affiliate agreement has been completed and was to be reviewed the last week of July, but the cost of joining ORCA has not been determined.
The SoundRunner passenger-only ferry service launched in May, providing commuters and other travelers an optional Seattle connection. It averages 37 passengers per trip, Rouser said. The boats also provide special-event trips and are available for charter.
While ridership grows, the port has pledged to subsidize the service with up to $200,000 each year for the next four years. Rouser said it’s too early to tell when the subsidy will no longer be necessary.
At $14 per round trip, the ferry is roughly twice the price of Washington State Ferries. But some commuters have said they find SoundRunner saves them time and hassle.