KT ferry maintenance site project to get public feedback

Kitsap Transit is preparing to go to the public for feedback on a dedicated maintenance facility for its ferry system, but more questions than answers remain as to how feasible a local option could be.

The local ferry system is one of the largest in Washington state with 10 vessels spread across five routes, but a dedicated facility to make repairs to the ships has not yet been developed. A certain amount of maintenance and repair can be done dockside, but larger repairs and inspections are performed at shipyards. Such a reliance can lead to service disruptions and increased costs for maintenance and services.

Of the 10 preliminary sites analyzed by KPFF Consulting for size requirements, five were selected as feasible alternatives for further analysis in May.

Kelly Lesoing with KPFF continued to narrow the list before the KT board of commissioners Dec. 5. “We looked for criteria in these three broad areas: focusing on the available space in the water and uplands on the site, site access for navigating to and from the site, as well as the roadway network connecting and also the site environmental and permitting feasibility.”

The three alternative sites determined by the study were all in Port Orchard: Kitsap Marina, a combination of Kitsap Marina and the neighboring Suldan’s Boat Works, and the Port Orchard Railway Marina/Bar and Grill. A neighboring residence to Suldan’s was also included in early feasibility studies, a property that KT executive director John Clauson said could be acquired.

“The residence is very interested in selling and has contacted us,” he told the board. “Suldan’s is also one that they are anxious to go on the market and sell.”

Lesoing explained the selection of the combined second alternative, saying, “We quickly realized that the space available at sites was a big challenge. For that reason, we explored additional opportunities to find more space at sites.”

Mayor Rob Putaansuu of Port Orchard contested the Railway alternative immediately, acknowledging that the “Bar and Grill” site mentioned was the former Cheers Bar and Grill location. That property is the construction site for a new three-story apartment building, leading the mayor to believe the costs to use that alternative were no longer feasible.

“It’s not very feasible unless we were writing them a check today,” he said, “because once they go vertical (in construction), it’s going to be very cost-prohibitive.”

Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson had plenty of questions of her own, noting the difficulties associated with all three alternative sites while also mentioning the agency’s own interests in working to expand its ferry system at a future point. “We have a lot of interest in small ferries throughout the Puget Sound area, King County Marine, city of Des Moines. We’ve talked about more ferries here in Kitsap. You know, it sounds to me like maybe we need to talk to our neighbors.”

Clauson made his case emphasizing the need for a facility of the agency’s own, citing several facilities had been uninterested or unwilling to work with the agency. “Even the public yard, if you will, in the Port of Port Townsend, trying to schedule a lift when we need it is a bit challenging, and they’re also limited in the size of vessels that they can lift—our larger vessels from Kingston and Southworth, for example. They pretty much have to go into a drydock or take them out of the water.”

Putaansuu offered some comments similar to those of Erickson. “It’s got to make business sense, and I think there is a business opportunity to share this with King County and others.”

KT is expected to release a public survey to the public in mid-December that runs into January for feedback concerning the project and remaining sites being considered.