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Harper lot eyes expansion

When it comes to parking lots, Kitsap Transit’s motto might be: “We’d better build it, because they’re going to come.”

“We’re trying to get a little bit ahead of the curve,” said Richard Hayes, the agency’s director, explaining that the expansion currently in the works for the park-and-ride lot at the Harper Evangelical Free Church will add parking spaces needed right now — and some that will be needed later.

Most weekdays, the 170-space lot overflows as ferry commuters park their cars then hop on shuttle buses to the Southworth terminal. An expansion, Hayes said, is “overdue.”

“We have as many as 15 to 20 people parking in the gravel-mud place next to the church itself,” he said, explaining that Kitsap Transit hopes to eventually more than double the amount of spaces available. “We have enough land for 400 spaces.”

To fund the expansion, Kitsap Transit hopes to receive more than $1.3 million in federal transportation dollars after applying to the Puget Sound Regional Council to have the project included in the 2005-07 Regional Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

The parking lot expansion is just one of at least 16 projects — totaling $10.5 million — in Kitsap County that are being considered by the PSRC, a transportation, economic and growth planning agency for the central Puget Sound region that oversees the distribution of about $160 million in U.S. Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration funds each year.

If the expansion makes the final list of recommended projects, Hayes said his staff would finish the planning and would potentially be ready to break ground next spring.

Although most of the extra parking spaces might not be needed immediately, Hayes said his staff is preparing for future increases in passengers, especially if passenger-only ferries serving Southworth materialize.

“Five years from now, we will need them,” he said. “And certainly 10 years from now we will need them, even if we don’t get the passenger-only ferries.”

For the latest round of funding, Kitsap Transit applied for more than $3.7 million, which includes funds for the lot expansion, along with $2 million to complete the purchase of 67 small diesel buses by 2007, another $400,000 for passenger-only ferry boats, and $30,000 for bike lockers at various ferry and bus terminals throughout the county.

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