Planning under way for passenger ferry

"Island residents are working to acquire a passenger-only ferry for service between Clinton and Mukilteo next fall when regular ferry service is disrupted due to construction.Beginning in September, Washington State Ferries plans to close the Mukilteo dock from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday through Friday for several weeks to allow wing wall repair work. Ferries that normally go from Clinton to Mukilteo will instead go to Edmonds during that those hours.However, some islanders would still like foot access to Mukilteo. A contingent of them appeared at last week's Port of South Whidbey meeting.We definitely got the blessing of the port, said Jack Negus of the Whidbey Island Transportation Association (WITA), a commuters' organization which hired private ferries during labor troubles 20 years ago.Port Commissioner Jan Smith said Negus' group was told they can use the port's dock at Mukilteo for their purpose once concerns about insurance are met. The dock was built for such a use, but regular passenger ferry service never materialized.But that's only step one, Negus said. Joan Nelson, another person active in the effort, has contacted State Ferries to obtain its support. Without that, Negus said, the project probably won't be feasible.The ferry system looked into providing passenger-only service, but backed away due to the cost.Assuming the ferry system lends moral support to WITA's effort, a landing will be needed in Mukilteo. Negus said that last time, a float was placed between the fishing pier and the restaurant that is now Ivar's. From there, a ramp led up to the regular ferry patron walkway. He also hopes that State Parks will allow ferry users temporary parking in the state park during the construction period.WITA hired a boat named the Lula Bell for the job 20 years ago. It carried 40 passengers. Negus thinks there would be a demand for a similar carrying capacity today. To reach Mukilteo and return on the temporary Clinton/Edmonds ferry will take two hours, including the land trip. A lot of people would like to save a portion of that two hours, he said."

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