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Keystone plans concern public

In the next several years, work could begin on a project that would change the Keystone ferry terminal.

The type and scope of the work remain an unanswered question as ferry officials try to determine the best way to configure the ferry terminal that is served by old boats and a route that is prone to cancellations due to tides and fog.

Residents have a chance to comment on state ferries plans during the scoping process needed for an environmental impact statement as required by the State Environmental Policy Act.

Some people came to Coupeville Elementary School Wednesday for an open house that kicked off the public comment process. At the open house, residents saw poster boards outlining the needs and proposed options for the terminal. Approximately 50 people wandered in and out of the room. They had a chance to drop comments in boxes or have them recorded by a court reporter.

Folks attending the two-hour open house were concerned about how potential work on the terminal will affect the adjacent Fort Casey State Park, the waters surrounding the terminal and the traffic changes that could occur if larger vessels start servicing the ferry route.

“I hope they don’t wreck the reef and I hope they don’t take too much of the state park out,” said Ken Urstad, president of the Puget Sound Anglers Whidbey chapter. He added that he would like to see the boat launch, located next to the ferry dock, be preserved.

Gary Goltz, construction manager for the Coupeville School District, said he is concerned if Washington State Ferries has any plans to deal with higher traffic numbers if larger ferries, carrying more vehicles, are brought in to serve the Port Townsend/Keystone route.

“This traffic kills us,” Goltz said. To deal with current traffic, workers will build a new crosswalk crossing South Main Street south of the intersection with Terry Road. The crosswalk will have an island where students could wait for traffic. He said a bridge over the road would be too expensive.

Goltz said he would like Washington State Ferries to help improve traffic lights and signage in the area and find a way to route large trucks and trailers around Coupeville.

Coupeville resident John Moon was skeptical that the ferry system would be able to standardize its fleet and said it should keep smaller vessels serving Keystone and Port Townsend.

“The standardization isn’t there and it never will be,” Moon said.

Washington State Ferries is currently considering four different possibilities for the Keystone Ferry terminal.

Two of the options would allow for larger vessels, which hold between 124 and 144 vehicles, to enter Keystone harbor. For that to happen, the harbor would have to be dredged and the jetty would either be moved 300 feet to the east or extended 600 feet into the water.

The other two options would use the existing harbor, but bring in either a vessel with a propulsion system that allows for better maneuvering in the harbor or in a new vessel similar in size to the steel electric vessels that currently serve the route.

Washington State Ferries wants to improve the dock to accommodate growth that is expected in coming years and to replace the 78-year-old steel electric vessels.

The Wednesday evening open house marked the beginning of the public comment “scoping” process. The public can comment on the ferry plans until April 28.

Residents’ comments will help ferry officials develop an EIS. A draft of the statement should be complete in early 2007. Once it’s complete, another open house will take place where the public can comment on the draft.

Comments can be e-mailed to keystoneproject@wsdot.wa.gov or by mail to Washington State Ferries, Attn: Hadley Greene, 2901 Third Ave., Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98121.

For more information about the Keystone project, go to www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/projects/keystoneharbor.

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