Kingston’s public ferry meeting Dec. 11, 6-8 p.m. in the Kingston Community Center. Free cookies and coffee. WSF will go over its long-range plan, liquid natural gas fuel, fuel efficiency, and a ferry boat-space smartphone app. Kingston’s topics include: Why not a third summer overflow boat; a reservations update; the economics of route fare increases; and State Route 104 traffic improvements.
Commissioner Rob Gelder has doggedly pursued Kingston’s ferry traffic issues with WSF in a series of meetings, which started last spring. Here’s some of his progress, and there’s more to come in 2014.
- Improving use of the WSDOT parking lot (across from the Filling Station): Volunteers cleared vegetation that was covering the sidewalk. Directional signs were put up. With the help of a community volunteer, a landscaping design to give visibility into the lot was done and work will be completed in the spring.
- Improving use of the holding area: Through new striping and moving of the oil boom storage container, the number of available holding lanes has been increased. While the first few lanes are reserved for large trucks and RVs, WSF expects to free up for cars the holding lane had been reserved for emergency vehicles.
- Boat loading info: WSF will have a cone in the holding area that marks which cars will get on the current boat. An app on the WSF website is being tested that will allow riders to find out, updated every 15 seconds, how many spaces are left on the next boat. Out on the State Route 104 and Highway 3 electronic signs, WSF is looking into having accurate wait time info and including more than one route, so we’ll be able to decide which ferry to take.
- Tourist Info: WSF’s tally slips now have a QR code that lets smartphones download tourism and shopping information.
- State Route 104 routing: The highway improvement plan, circa 2000, started with building another holding area at Lindvog Road and moving all ferry traffic over to the northeast side of town. While the plan for a holding area at Lindvog Road has been abandoned, the plan to shift all in- and out-bound traffic to what is now the out-bound ferry traffic lane survives. This means the current inbound ferry lane will become a downtown “main street.” A study on the highway 104/West Kingston Road intersection completed this year found that either a roundabout or traffic lights would work. Next, a $250,000 “Complete Streets” grant will figure out how 2 million ferry vehicles, local traffic, pedestrians, bikes, parking, and stormwater will coexist in a new, nifty downtown. Funding the highway’s construction cost is another story.
- Transportation package: Olympia was notable for what didn’t happen with transportation this year. With the debt payment on bonds already issued for the “megaprojects” (520 bridge, Viaduct, etc.) WSDOT doesn’t have the money for highway maintenance, ferry operations, or even to finish the mega projects.
While a transportation gas tax “package” made it through the House this year, the clock ran out before it could get through the Senate. The hang-ups were light rail on a new Columbia River Bridge, and requirements for WSDOT to manage their costs.
This fall, the Senate Transportation Committee co-chairs went around the state holding public meetings on transportation funding. The goal was a special session this month to put through a transportation bill that people would support. That goal was trumped by the governor’s call for a special session to keep Boeing’s 777x production in Washington.
As I write this, consideration of a “transportation package” has been kicked down the highway until 2014.
—Walt Elliott is chairman of the Kingston Ferry Advisory Committee and is a Kingston port commissioner. Contact him at email@example.com.