County could get $9 million in federal funding

About $9 million in federal funding could aid transportation projects directly affecting local ferry service and Kitsap County, thanks to Sen. Patty Murray’s help at the Congressional level.

The Democrat also just happens to be the chairwoman of the Senate Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. In that capacity, Murray helped shepherd through the subcommittee and full committee earlier this month a funding bill her office says would benefit Kitsap transportation systems.

The bill still needs approval from full Senate, the House of Representatives and the president.

Nevertheless, Murray was happy about this first step.

“Our region’s economy is facing tough times and we must do all we can to keep jobs and business in Kitsap County,” Murray said. “This increased money will help improve the flow of passengers and traffic through the ferry terminals and safely across the Puget Sound.”

The bill would provide funding for several key transportation projects, whether by land or water. Most of the funding would be used for studies.

They include:

n $1 million to be used to help develop a system-wide wireless connectivity for both crew and passengers on Washington State Ferries. The company to do the work is Mobilisa, Inc., a Port Townsend company. Mobilisa specializes in mobile and wireless communications and software and has done work for the Navy.

The system could be tested on three different routes. Although no decision has yet been made on which three routes would receive testing, the most likely routes are the Bainbridge Island-Seattle route, the Kingston-Edmonds route and the Bremerton-Seattle route.

Not only could crew members use wireless communication devices, but restaurants aboard ferries could allow customers to use credit or debit cards, under the system.

Plus passengers could get wireless access to the Internet so that e-mail could be sent and received while aboard the ferry, for example.

• $3 million would be used to do preliminary engineering and design for a tunnel exit for vehicles loading off of ferries at the Bremerton terminal. This project would help mitigate traffic in downtown Bremerton when the ferries are off-loading.

• $2 million would be earmarked to help construct new docks, ramps and floats including Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access, bus stops, shelters and a bus lane at the Sidney Landing.

• $1 million would help analysts study the feasibility of high-speed water transportation between the cities of Bremerton and Seattle in Sinclair Inlet. The intent would be to determine whether the trip could be conducted in a half hour without causing wake damage along shorelines.

• $2 million would help fund the eventual replacement of the deteriorating Hood Canal Bridge, increasing its resistance to weather related damage.

Under the bill supported by Sen. Murray, Washington State as a whole would also receive $510 million in Federal Highway Administration grants and $101 million in Federal Transit Administration grants to address other transportation challenges statewide.

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