Hansen bill boosts fast passenger ferries

The dream of a fast passenger-ferry run from Bremerton to Seattle moved a step closer to reality yesterday with House committee approval of a proposal to permit Kitsap Transit to make a case to voters for the service.

House Bill 2267, by Rep. Drew Hansen, could result in a voter-approved fast ferry plan to re-launch the Rich Passage I, the high-tech boat that conducted successful  trial runs for four months in 2012 but has since sat idle for lack of funds to operate a regularly scheduled service.

“We want to attract more jobs and more commuters to Bremerton, and a fast, reliable ferry to Seattle is one way to do it,” Hansen, a Kitsap County Democrat, said. “I want to give Kitsap Transit a chance to make the case for passenger-only ferry service to the voters, and that’s exactly what this bill does.”

The measure will permit transit authorities to propose a passenger-only ferry operation to voters along with a revenue plan for how to pay for the service.

The federal government has provided more than $13 million to build and test the Rich Passage I, a catamaran powered by water jets that is designed to minimize wakes that could damage the shoreline of Rich Passage, the narrow strait between Bainbridge Island and the part of the Kitsap Peninsula near Mansfield State Park. The boat passed the tests of wake generation, but there has not been a source of money to put it in service.

The House Transportation Committee vote for the measure advances it for consideration by the full House.