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WSF collects public opinion on dock closure

"Passenger ferry option still openComment nextweekWashington State Ferries will hold informational sessions next week to gather public opinion on the options for the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry shutdown next September: Tuesday, Feb. 1, on board the ferries from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.Tuesday, Feb. 1, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Trinity Lutheran Church in Freeland.Thursday, Feb. 3, 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave., Mukilteo.Washington State Ferries wants its Clinton-Mukilteo customers to decide which of two scenarios will be the least inconvenient for them beginning in September.The choices are:* Shut down the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday through Friday for approximately five weeks.* Or, shut down the ferry 24-hours a day for approximately 20 days.The service disruption will be required as a construction firm replaces the wingwalls that guide the ferry into the dock in Mukilteo. The 10-year-old pilings need to be replaced and the timber towers braced.During the shutdown periods, the ferries will operate between Clinton and Edmonds, which is about twice the distance and thus will carry only about half the number of cars as the regular service. Foot passengers who need to catch rides in Mukilteo will be bused there from Edmonds.There is also a possibility a passenger-only ferry could operate between Clinton and Mukilteo during either the partial or complete shutdown.In recent meetings ferry officials have downplayed the passenger-only ferry option, saying it's too expensive. But public support for that idea seemed strong Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Langley Chamber of Commerce.Present was Tracy Brewer, Northwest region terminal operations manager for the ferry system. Lisa Bjork, superintendent of schools, noted that some South Whidbey students attend the Sno-Isle Skills Center every day, and having no access to Mukilteo could disrupt their schedule. Bjork preferred to have a passenger ferry available.I don't think the door's closed, Brewer responded. but we need to know how much they (passenger-only ferries) would be used. We're looking at over a few hundred thousand dollars, and we have to be really careful with our dollars right now.At a recent meeting in Freeland, Jack Negus, a founder of the Whidbey Island Transportation Association, recalled when WITA leased a passenger-only boat twice during labor disruptions some 20 years ago. He expressed interest in researching the possibility of repeating the effort.The Port of South Whidbey already has a dock designed for passenger ferry use, and it's located next to the present ferry dock. It has never been used for its intended purpose, and the port commissioners have expressed support for a passenger-only ferry during the closure.Also at Wednesday's meeting, Martha Rose, director of Island Transit, offered to help State Ferries survey those interested in a passenger-only option.All options are open, responded Brewer, encouraging everyone to participate in opinion gathering sessions being held next week."

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