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A train to Seattle by fall 2005

Daily ferry commuters who ride the bus every day may have a new way to get to work this summer that allows them to kick back and ride the rails.

At a meeting in Clinton Tuesday night, state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, announced that Sound Transit will build a temporary train stop at Mukilteo in September. Haugen, who serves as chair of the transportation committee, said the station will allow ferry commuters to catch the train to Edmonds and Seattle.

Her announcement drew applause from an audience seeking to learn more about a planned Mukilteo ferry dock construction project that affects their lives. Approximately 60 people filed into the Clinton Progressive Hall Tuesday evening for the meeting, sponsored by the Clinton Forum’s. Representatives from state and county governments fielded questions and comments about the project and other ferry-related matters.

The multimodal terminal is scheduled for completion in 2010 about a half mile from the existing ferry terminal. The terminal includes a ferry dock with two ferry slips, a covered pedestrian ramp to a Sound Transit rail station, and a bus transit center, said Nicole McIntosh, DOT’s multimodal terminal project manager.

The terminal is intended to improve traffic, pedestrian safety and cut down on traffic backups that can last up to three hours on both sides of the water.

The third ferry is slated for the Mukilteo to Clinton route because statistics collected by the state Office of Financial Management show it is a projected rapid growth area, said DOT director of terminal engineering Russ East.

Reaction to the multimodal terminal and third ferry was mixed. Several in the audience supported both because it will make daily commuting easier. A couple people even asked that the third ferry begin operating before the 2013, the earliest date promised date for the start of operations. A few others even suggested running a passenger-only ferry to Coupeville and Oak Harbor, an idea that has been bandied about for years.

Others, however, charged that the terminal and third ferry would encourage more people to move to Whidbey Island. A Langley man at the meeting who stated that he supports preserving a rural lifestyle on Whidbey Island, said he knows of at least one example in which a person decided against moving to the island because ferries only run twice an hour.

But Island County commissioner Mike Shelton said third ferry or not, people are moving to Whidbey Island.

“Even if you don’t build it, they will come,” he said.

Adding a third ferry boat to the Clinton-Mukilteo run would require the DOT to buy a new ferry at the price of about $66 million, something Russ East said could be difficult for the state to afford especially since the DOT plans to buy four new boats to replace four ferries currently on the run.

East said funding for a passenger-only ferry is also difficult to come by. It will cost from $15 to $40 million just to rebuild Keystone’s terminal, East said. Sen. Haugen backed him on that point.

“The truth is funding for ferries is very difficult in this state,” Haugen said.

The state lost its main source of ferry funding when Initiative 695 reduced the price of license tabs to a flat fee, she said.

Shelton said elected officials from Island County and other neighboring counties are looking at a passenger-only ferry route that would serve Oak Harbor and Coupeville. Based on their research, he said the only way to have a passenger-only ferry for those cities would be if private subsidies paid the majority of the capital and operating costs.

Stephen Mercer / the Record

Jay Ryan talks to Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton after the Clinton forum meeting Tuesday while other attendees speak with Washington State

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