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Clinton dock will lose 2 lanes for 7 months

There is good news and bad news about the Clinton dock construction project.

First the good news: Manson Construction, the company doing the work, is ahead of schedule. The dock project is several months ahead of where Washington State Ferries officials expected it to be and has a target completion date of May 2003. A spokesman for Manson said this week that while their contract is for 600 working days, the work will be 400 days.

The bad news will come during the final phase of the construction. Beginning in early October and lasting through April car space on the dock will be reduced from four lanes to two, which will make ferry lines even longer on Highway 525.

During this final phase, the remaining northern half of the old wood ferry dock will be torn down and replaced, reducing the dock's the holding area to two lanes, plus the car pool and bus lanes. Part of the storage area in the center of the dock -- which was partially reconstructed in 2000 and 2001 -- will become exit lanes for traffic leaving the ferry.

Ferry employees will face several challenges during this period.

"Getting cars down the hill through the toll booth and loaded in a timely manner is going to be a challenge," said Irene V. Schaeffer, the WSF agent at the Clinton dock. "One idea we are considering is to use the bus lane as a holding lane once transit has come and gone."

Other details yet to be worked out are exactly when and where the buses will be able to turn around and head back up the hill from the ferry.

"This is going to be a matter of timing. We're working with Island Transit to come up with a workable plan," Schaeffer said.

Ferry travelers may experience some frustration with the longer loading period, Schaeffer said, but she hopes ferry customers will keep it in check.

"We can't do this without the help of the public," she said. "We're asking for patience."

Also an issue is the dock's ability to accommodate people who want to drive onto the dock to pick up or drop off passengers. Schaeffer said that will still be possible, but at times drivers wanting to do this may have to wait up to 20 minutes for cars in the loading area on the dock to load onto a ferry.

Jack Leengran, chairman of the Ferry Advisory Committee, said he has been promised by Department of Transportation officials that once the dock is completed, there will be one long ferry lane feeding into all three toll booths. That is a big change from the current situation, under which two lanes feed into three booths. Members of the FAC have long argued that this is an unfair and maddening arrangement.

"That is what people have been asking for," Leengran said. "It should reduce driver frustration."

According to Leengran, the single lane will be wider to allow for trucks and to give people room to open their car doors while waiting for a ferry.

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