Sidney Dock project given a revival

Thanks to a nearly $2 million federal grant, Kitsap Transit is picking up where it left off on the Sidney Dock six years ago.

In 1997, Kitsap Transit first started work on an upgrade of the Port Orchard foot-ferry terminal — even though the agency didn’t, at that point, own the facility, it hoped to purchase the lease from then-owner Horluck Transportation and overhaul both the dock and the adjacent bus waiting area.

The reduction in transportation funds that resulted from the passage of Initiative 695 sunk the organization’s plans and forced it to cancel its design contract with Parametrix, a local consulting firm.

Last week, however, the transit Board of Directors unanimously voted to re-sign that contract and kick the proposed project into high gear.

Kitsap Transit now owns the dock and the foot ferry service, giving the agency even more reason to act quickly — especially since the dock has had an additional six years to deteriorate further.

“It’s our goal to expedite to contract so we can begin work in 2004,” said Kitsap Transit executive director Dick Hayes.

The $1.98 million grant, provided by the Federal Transit Authority, will pay for ripping out the existing dock facilities and replacing them with more passenger-friendly, handicapped-accessible structures.

The creosote pilings and crumbling wooden decking will be replaced by steel supports and molded concrete walking surfaces.

A new, prefabricated concrete ferry-access float will connect to the new, shorter dock with a longer gangplank, making it easier to access by wheelchair.

The new float will also have moorage space for all the new ferry boats — provided by Kitsap Harbor Tours, the new contracted ferry operator — and a shelter that will allow patrons to wait at ferry-loading level.

The current facilities force boarding passengers to wait above on the dock, slowing turnaround times.

The new elements will reduce environmental impacts on the surrounding marine habitats by reducing shading of the water — an essential element in promoting marine plant growth — and eliminating the toxic creosote pilings.

“We believe the new facility will be significantly more environmentally friendly than the current facility is,” said Darryl Piercy, the agency’s transportation and land use planner.

If there’s any grant money left over after these crucial elements are addressed, Kitsap Transit wants to overhaul the “upland” portion of the property, improving the bus waiting area that adjoins the dock.

The agency wants to:

*dig out the pavement by the library mural and replace it with “more of a park-like setting;”

*repave the bus terminal up to Sidney Avenue;

*improve the sidewalk and pedestrian facilities for the site; and,

*extend the existing boardwalk though the transit property.

Piercy isn’t sure how many of those items Kitsap Transit will be able to get to — the cost for the entire project is estimated at $2.5 million, $600,000 more than the federal grant is offering. Piercy said the agency doesn’t currently plan to throw its own money at whatever sub-projects are left unfunded and therefore plans to bid each element separately to ensure it the flexibility to stop at any time.

Other funding sources, he said, would be examined after the first phase of construction is complete. At present, Piercy estimates that if it came down to a competition between the different proposed upgrades, the boardwalk extension would probably be the one to lose out. He said not only does it fall at the bottom of the priority list, it also happens to be one of the most expensive supplemental projects under consideration.

“I would guess it’s out of the running as far as this phase of the project is concerned,” Piercy said.

Kitsap Transit plans to seek development permits from the City of Port Orchard sometime late this month or early next month. Because a conditional use permit is required, a public hearing before the Port Orchard City Council will have to be arranged.

If everything goes as planned, Piercy estimates construction could begin as soon as the “fish window” opens next July — all shoreline construction must be done at a time it won’t interfere with the spawning habits of native fish. Because so many of the dock elements can be pre-fabricated, Piercy said, work can probably be complete by October 2004.

“This isn’t a huge project where it should extend beyond a few months,” he said.

While construction is going on, Kitsap Transit will likely borrow the Port of Bremerton’s facilities at the Port Orchard Marina to keep ferry service running. Piercy said the two agencies have only talked preliminarily about this plan but said there’s a long history of similar arrangements being made when the Sidney Dock was down for repairs.

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