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A return of the 'mosquito fleet:' More fast ferries planned for Puget Sound

More fast ferries planned for Puget Sound, a return of the 'mosquito fleet' (KOMO News)

SEATTLE – Leaders from across Puget Sound met Friday in Seattle to outline a plan for a regional fast ferry system.

“Our road system is congested,” said Dow Constantine, King County Executive. “There is just too many of us trying to use it. So, we turn to the waters, and we have an opportunity to free people from that traffic.”

The system would connect Seattle with potential ports in Pierce, Thurston, Kitsap, and Snohomish Counties.

“I can honestly say that this is the one project that I’ve had the most organic, unsolicited enthusiastic feedback form constituents,” said Tacoma City Councilmember Ryan Mello, who’s working to open a port in Tacoma. “People are excited to have this way to get to work.”

Renton and Kenmore are two cities that have also expressed interest in opening ports.

The plans are inspired by the old mosquito fleet that travelled the Puget sound in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s.

“Old is new again,” said Mello.

Mello said Tacoma is looking to conduct a viability study later this month to research just how well a fast ferry system would work in the South Sound.

The system would add to the current passenger-only ferries with routes to and from West Seattle, Vashon Island, and Bremerton.

Since it launched July 2017, Kitsap Transit says the Seattle-Bremerton fast ferry has seen more than 200,000 riders and operates at a 95% on-time rate.

But, it endured speed bumps initially, and Kitsap Transit and King County Marine Division are still negotiating for KCMD to take over operations.

“We’re in negotiations of an interlocal agreement. We hope to conclude those as soon as possible. But government to government, it takes time,” said KCMD Director Paul Brodeur.

Leaders today suggested an independent governing body would be most prudent to operate fast ferry system down the road.

“There’s got to be a level playing field and not one jurisdiction or party can really be in the driving seat,” said Rob Gelder, Kitsap County Commissioner.

Gelder said dock space able to maintain the traffic from new routes will be a very important part of the planning process.

Some leaders have pointed to Pier 48 as a potential new fast ferry terminal in Seattle.

Brodeur said they’re very early in the outlining phase. The system could have to be approved by state legislature before it receives local, state, and potentially federal funding.

City, county, and port leaders look to next hear from experts from Boston and San Francisco in the next phase of the planning process.

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