Old issues come to fore in Clinton

"Issues that were talked about at length a year or more ago came back to life in Clinton at a March 29 meeting sponsored by the Clinton Community Forum.A panel of officials from Washington State Ferries, the state Department of Transportation, Island Transit and the Port of South Whidbey fielded questions and updated the audience of about 50 on a variety of issues.Susan Harris-Heuther, State Ferries, said the new south terminal at the Clinton dock should be ready to handle its first run by April 24, and the dock reconstruction job should be substantially completed by the end of June. Only half the dock is new, and engineers are designing a way to join the old and the new without disrupting dock operations. The whole dock will be functional, Harris-Heuther said.As for phase two of the dock construction, which was put on hold by I-695, Harris-Heuther said she would not even care to project when it might be undertaken. She added, however, that finishing the Clinton dock is State Ferries' top capital priority if funding becomes available.Some of us might not live to see that, said Patrick Normile, chair of the Clinton Subarea Planning Committee, only half jokingly.The DOT's Mike Swires fielded some tough questions about how the highway lanes to the ferry dock are being operated. With ferry traffic only in the right lane, that leaves cars having to cross a line of ferry traffic if they want to turn right off the highway.Let us have the highway the way it used to be, pleaded Joan Nelson, remembering when, less than two years ago, drivers made their own decision which lane to take in Clinton. It was so much safer, she said.Mike Helland backed up Nelson, saying people did what they wanted until a (ferry) line formed.Another man added, We dealt with it for years and it worked.Swires responded It sounds like a simple solution . . .but it's hard to control a ferry line like that.State Ferries is sticking to its plan announced last year to continue using the right lane in Clinton for ferry traffic only. Swires said additional striping and signs are planned for this spring to make the rules more clear.The Clinton Forum a year ago recommended that State Ferries buy the Kenmir property on the north side of the ferry dock for a kiss and ride lot and to provide public beach access -- something lost with the dock remodeling.Lynae Slinden, Forum chair, hadn't heard anything back from that proposal, however. The possibility of it being a kiss & ride is pretty much kissed off? she asked. Has anyone followed up?Added Slinden, And the beach, that's not a happening thing, is that right?Harris-Heuther seemed surprised by the interest expressed by Slinden. A year ago you didn't want a public beach, she claimed, attributing that belief to the local Ferry Advisory Committee.They're not talking for the community of Clinton, shot back Elsie Olkonen.Phil Moore, a member of the Clinton Subarea Planning Committee, scanned the panel and asked for answers to the questions. One of you public entities should find out, he said.Jan Smith, port commissioner, polled the crowd as to its desires. She asked if the port should get involved in acquiring the Kenmir property. The large majority of hands in the audience shot up in the affirmative. She then asked if, instead, the port should try to build a marina in Langley. She laughed when nobody raised their hand, and noted the Clinton bias in the audience.The group did obtain one promise from one of the officials. Normile too asked about public beach access from the Kenmir property.I'll look at the beach to the north and write you a letter, Pat, said Harris-Heuther."

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