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Move terminal, ferry riders say

CLINTON — Keep clam.

Faced with four options for keeping the ferry terminal in Mukilteo, South Whidbey residents said they most liked an alternative that would move the ferry landing to the north.

One option, however, inspired much opposition at Thursday’s public hearing. That $130 million-$140 million scenario for expanding the ferry terminal would keep the dock at the end of Highway 525, but the on-site expansion would mean the removal of Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing.

Officials with Washington State Ferries said it would be doubtful that the popular restaurant could be relocated nearby because of the lack of privately owned land.

Whidbey residents found other options more preferable.

Two of the four options being studied by the state would see the ferry landing moved farther north along the Mukilteo shoreline, to the Air Force tank farm property. Both alternatives would include a new passenger and maintenance building and an extension of First Street that would lead to toll booths and parking areas for ferry travelers and those catching the train at Sound Transit’s commuter rail station. The Elliot Point terminals are estimated to cost between $120 million to $165 million.

The final option is a “no build” scenario, which would keep the dock in place but would require a new slip, trestle, transfer span and other improvements at a cost of $60 million to $65 million.

Nicole McIntosh, a terminal design engineering manager with WSF, said the Clinton-Mukilteo route carries 4.5 million travelers a year and is the busiest route in the ferry system.

The Mukilteo terminal, built in 1952, has not had major improvements in nearly 30 years. WSF also expects a 73-percent increase in riders on the route by the year 2030.

The current terminal has a host of problems: a short unloading and loading period where vehicles must wait for walk-on passengers to get on or off the ferry; long traffic queues that stretch up Highway 525 during peak travel times; hassles for drivers heading to Lighthouse Park or along Front Street when the ferry is at the dock; and the gauntlet for pedestrians crossing near Ivar’s.

“It’s a lot of activity happening in a small, little area,” McIntosh said.

Dave Hoogerwerf, a member of Clinton Ferry Advisory Committee, agreed.

“We certainly have to do something. What’s down there, I think everybody agrees, it’s dangerous,” Hoogerwerf said.

Keeping the current terminal in place doesn’t make sense, he said, especially given the cost.

“If you are going to spend $65 million just to keep what you have … it’s a lot of money,” he said.

Moving the terminal to Elliot Point, and using the plan that would cost $120 million to $130 million, appeared to be the most feasible.

Another benefit — it’s close to a transit center where travelers could hop on a bus or train.

“I think we have to get people out of their cars. We’ve got to get them into transit,” Hoogerwerf said.

Michael Clyburn said he also preferred that plan.

“I’ve been commuting daily on this ferry since 1984,” Clyburn said. “On the surveys on the boat, I always write, ‘Don’t make it any easier to come to Whidbey Island, we don’t want anybody else moving here.’”

“But, to make it easier to connect to transit, would be wonderful,” he said.

That alternative would create a more logical traffic flow, Clyburn added, and would leave more of the shoreline available for development.

Dean Enell noted the current terminal is a bit of a tourist attraction.

“I think there’s a certain charm to the Mukilteo Ferry Landing,” Enell said. “It’s kind of the opposite of an experience at SeaTac airport, where you have a bunch of lines and a bunch of cement everywhere.”

Whatever option is picked, he added, ferry officials should keep the cost of travel low, especially if WSF wants to encourage more walk-on riders.

“For South Whidbey island, the cost of a ferry ticket is a very important thing,” Enell said.

“I sure hope that gets factored into the design. Don’t turn it into a very expensive operation that’s sterile,” he said.

Others pressed WSF to consider adding overnight parking areas to the plan, a place for commuters to park, or a temporary lot for people picking up ferry travelers on foot.

Ferry officials acknowledged that the state doesn’t currently have enough money to build the Elliot Point terminal alternatives. The current budget for the Mukilteo project is $90 million, but WSF officials hope to garner additional federal funding once the study process is complete.

Ivan Solkey questioned whether the relocation of the terminal was feasible, and stressed the state would need to get Indian tribes to agree to the project.

The location includes significant historical and archeological sites, including a buried shell midden that dates back more than a thousand years. The area is also where the Treaty of Point Elliot was signed in 1855.

“They don’t have funding for this,” Solkey said. “Secondly, they don’t have the land yet. The tribal committee has not signed off on it, the Air Force is not going to give them the land until they do.

“We’re talking about things that may not happen at all,” he said.

The 45-day comment period on the draft study runs through March 12. It can be found at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/projects/ferries/mukilteoterminal/multimodal/ for review. Comments may also be submitted electronically or by mail.

 

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