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Islanders to ferry service: Keep the terminal in Mukilteo

Go ahead and move the ferry terminal out of Mukilteo — when Saratoga Passage freezes over.

“It was a clear theme,” Hadley Rodero, a Washington State Ferries consultant, said this past week. “They want that terminal to stay in Mukilteo.”

WSF was bombarded with hundreds of comments when long-range planners suggested the possibility of moving the Mukilteo end of the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route to Everett or Edmonds, Rodero said. Nearly all of the comments were negative.

Rodero said roughly 365 comments were received from the public. Indeed, the opposition was at times intense.

Some said the concept of moving the terminal away from Mukilteo was “deplorable,” “insane,” “stupid” and “disastrous,” and that those from Mukilteo or the mainland who suggested the move could “kiss the collective [expletive deleted] of the islanders that would have their lives forever changed.”

Many said moving the terminal would crush the tourist-dependent economy of South Whidbey, would cause commuting workers from Boeing and elsewhere to move off the island, and would decrease property values on Whidbey.

“I realize residents of Mukilteo don’t like the ferry terminal, but to some extent, they must learn to deal with it,” wrote Doug Hofius. “The highway and the ferry are a long-standing fact of life in Mukilteo, which they all knew about when they moved there.”

“I can’t express how upset many Whidbey Island people will be if the terminal is moved out of Mukilteo!” added Gary Ingram of Greenbank. “Why would someone working at Boeing travel to Edmonds on a ferry and then come back?”

A tiny minority of comments submitted to WSF were from Mukilteo residents who wanted the terminal moved out of their town.

Others from off-island, however, suggested keeping the terminal in Mukilteo. The Port of Everett opposes moving the terminal, as did elected officials in Edmonds.

The Everett or Edmonds options are among nine proposed for the tired, crowded and overworked Mukilteo terminal. The options are included in preliminary long-range planning resumed this year with the blessings of the Legislature after three years on the back burner.

Those options range from doing nothing to improve the existing terminal, moving it down the Mukilteo waterfront or relocating it to Everett or Edmonds.

“We expected a lot of what we heard,” Rodero said. “But it was a federal requirement that we look at all reasonable alternatives.”

She said many of the comments received were in favor of moving the terminal slightly north of downtown Mukilteo, perhaps to the former fuel-tank farm property currently owned by the U.S. Air Force.

Rodero said the nine options will be narrowed to three or four, based on analysis and community feedback. She said the revised list will be announced in January.

At that point, more community meetings will be held, Rodero said, and the list will be narrowed again to a “preferred choice,” on which an environmental impact statement (EIS) will be based.

Will Edmonds or Everett make the first cut?

“We don’t know at this point,” Rodero said. “Stay tuned.”

Principle objections to moving the terminal out of Mukilteo center on inconvenience — especially on longer lines, increased crossing times and complicated mainland commutes, both north and south.

The current crossing between Clinton and Mukilteo is 15 minutes; the crossing between Clinton and Edmonds is 50 minutes.

Feedback to the ferry service to the preliminary proposals was pointed, to say the least.

“The idea of moving the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal to Edmonds is idiotic!” wrote Carol Tesson.

Rodero, a former WSF employee and now a communications specialist with the private consulting firm PRR in Seattle, said planners have enough federal funds to complete the EIS and to compile a report to the Legislature.

From that point, more federal funds will be needed to implement any future plan.

“There’s that little thing called money,” Rodero said.

WSF has been asked to whittle $17 million from its budget for the next two years. Meanwhile, the system already has been running a deficit of $80 million per year for the past 10 years, which has been subsidized by the state’s motor vehicle funds, including gas-tax revenue, David Moseley, WSF assistant secretary, said at a community meeting in Langley this past week.

The Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route, the second busiest for vehicle traffic behind Seattle-Bainbridge Island and the third largest in annual ridership in the ferry system, is a major section of well-traveled State Route 525.

Planners say future usage of the route is expected to increase 73 percent by 2030.

Earlier planning for the future of the terminal was suspended by the state Legislature in 2007 for funding and other reasons, Rodero said. This past February, it was reauthorized.

Current approved funding for the project is $63 million, Rodero said.

The timetable, sprinkled liberally with more public meetings, calls for public comments collected and an environmental impact statement obtained by 2012, a design completed by 2015 and construction completed by 2019.

The options so far are:

• Leaving the existing terminal as it is.

• Improving the existing site by upgrading the ferry slip, toll booths and passenger drop-off area, and improving bus and rail connections.

• Building a new pier, slip and terminal at the old World War II fuel-tank farm east of downtown Mukilteo and realigning First Street while improving bus and rail connections.

• Moving the terminal farther north, either to the site of the rail-barge pier owned by the Port of Everett, or to the south end of the port itself.

• Relocating to Edmonds, which would serve both Kingston and Clinton after either upgrading the current Edmonds terminal, or building a completely new terminal less than a mile to the south.

Rodero said that all the options except the first would include at least one ferry slip, with an option for two; a new multi-bay transit area; a passenger pick-up and drop-off area; and holding lanes with reserved areas for bicycles, carpools and priority vehicles.

She said the Mukilteo options would include about 45 new parking spaces in the city to replace those lost due to recent state and city projects, but she said those spaces probably wouldn't be reserved for overnight commuters.

The loss of overnight parking spaces in Mukilteo during the past year has frustrated island commuters who park cars on each side of the water to avoid vehicle waiting lines.

The current list of planning options and results of feedback are available on the state Department of Transportation's Web site, www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/ferries/mukilteoterminal/multimodal.

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