A view of Downtown Ketchikan near the intersection of Dock and Front streets in 2017. (Leila Kheiry/KRBD)

Officials in Ketchikan are considering a plan to ease downtown congestion during the summer cruise season. That’s as buses are expected to bring thousands of visitors from Ward Cove this summer.

The city’s acting port and harbors director is scheduled to present tentative plans for a new shuttle bus staging area Thursday evening, where visitors would arrive from the private cruise dock about seven miles north of town. The Ward Cove dock is projected to receive nearly 400,000 cruise passengers this summer, though it’s unclear how many would be bused downtown.

Last year, private shuttle buses staged along the Front Street Extension, but city officials say that left the area congested. The city’s Port and Harbors Advisory Board recommends moving the shuttle staging point near Ketchikan’s downtown fire station which is closer to attractions like the U.S. Forest Service’s Southeast Alaska Discovery Center and the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. City officials say they’re working with the fire department to make sure buses don’t block fire trucks. City officials say they also consulted with dock owners Ward Cove Dock Group and the cruise line Holland America Princess on the new plan.

Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to weigh in with its input on the shuttle busing on Thursday. City officials say they’ve yet to determine the city’s costs for the shuttle staging area and plan to bring a proposed fee structure back to the council at a later date.

In other tourism-related business, Ketchikan’s City Council is scheduled to consider stiffer penalties for street vendors operating illegally in the city’s downtown core — what the city calls “off-premise solicitation.” Current code provides for escalating fines starting at $200 for both the person doing the soliciting and their employer. A proposal up for a vote Thursday would raise the fine to $1,000 per violation for the solicitor and the business.

And finally, the City Council is set to examine a proposal to raise water rates by 4%. The council budgeted for the hike when debating the city’s spending plan late last year. City officials say it’d work out to less than $2.50 per month for a standalone house, and less for apartments.  The hike would raise the residential base rate to just over $63 per month. If approved Thursday, the rate increase would come back for a public hearing on Feb. 17.

Ketchikan’s City Council meets at 7 p.m. Thursday in its City Hall chambers. The meeting is broadcast on local cable channels and live-streamed at the city’s website. The full agenda is available online, and there is time set aside for public comment at the beginning of the meeting.