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Mechanical problems at ferry dock force commuters to detour
BY MICHAELA MARX WHEATLEY
South Whidbey Record
Some mechanical damage to the Mukilteo ferry dock caused long delays for commuters yesterday.
The breakdown occured in the middle of rush hour traffic. The trouble was caused by a disabled transfer span.
Travelers signed up to the ferry system's online alert system, received messages warning them of the trouble shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Eventually Washington State Ferries diverted the Clinton ferry to the Edmonds landing, a 45-minute crossing instead of the usual 12 minutes.
For some commuters, that meant detouring and added several hours to their commute.
Commuter Rob Scott said the online alerts caught him just in time to come up with alternative travel plans.
"I was affected by it, but did not have to divert post-Mukilteo arrival
although I did have to do some quick emergency travel planning," Scott said.
"Yesterday I got the first alert on my phone at 4:45 p.m., about
15 minutes before I usually walk out the door at work to catch the 880
back to Mukilteo," he said.
It took the ferry system awhile to figure out that it couldn't do the repairs immediately and sent out a second announcement about alternate plans for Edmonds runs at about 5:25 p.m.
"I scrambled and used the Community Transit Web site to find alternate connections to get me to the Edmonds ferry dock and was ultimately successful," Scott said.
He arrived in Edmonds in time to catch the second boat that had been diverted south, and left the Edmonds dock around 7 p.m.
Fellow ferry rider Jennifer Bondelid just happened to be on the mainland shopping yesterday.
"She caught the last boat from Edmonds to Clinton before they reverted
service back to Mukilteo," Scott recalled. "I kidded her this morning that some people pay a lot of good money to have a sunset cruise on Puget Sound."
Many opted to drive back on Whidbey via Deception Pass Bridge.
Michael Klim, who commutes to Seattle for his job as director of Information Technology Services at South Seattle Community College, said he commutes every day.
"I commute from West Seattle and was hoping to catch the 5 p.m. sailing as a walk-on," he said. "I usually park my car in the lighthouse parking lot. I first found out about it by reading the electronic reader board on the Mukilteo Speedway."
But no time was listed for when it would reopen.
"As I went down the hill, I saw that the Washington State Patrol was clearing the ferry line and the parking lot of cars," Klim said. "It was a ghost town."
An officer said it would be a few hours and the repair team had not yet arrived, Klim said. The officer suggested taking the Edmonds boat.
"Not knowing what the situation would be in Edmonds, I decided to drive around instead. I gassed up in Everett and got ready for the long drive. I was home in Langley two and a half hours later," Klim said.
Craig Cyr, another commuter from Langley, took an alternative approach.
"For me, I hung around with friends till the boat restarted at 10 p.m. from Mukilteo. It was jammed with cars, completely full. A regular on the 10 p.m. run told me it was never ever that full," Cyr said.
The experience emphasized how vital the ferry link is to the island.
"The whole experience points out the critical need for having more than one slip in Mukilteo, meaning a new terminal down near the Sound Transit train platform," Cyr said.
"If this had happened in Clinton with its two slips, the ferries could have carried on with absolutely no problem, using the other slip," he said. "This route has 4 million riders on it per year, and a second rate terminal, if not third rate, slip."
The Sounder train was on top of things and notified the passengers on the train from Seattle to Mukilteo about the ferry situation, so they could get off the train in Edmonds.
Cyr said the commuters got updates often.
"I thought the communication from the Washington State Ferries was great," he said. "I got frequent email updates. And kudos to the Sounder folks. From what I understand, there was an announcement on the train so that the Mukilteo folks got off in Edmonds and took the ferry from there to Clinton. That’s what I call customer service."
"I think that people on the Sounder train and bus people were hardest
hit by the diversion yesterday," Scott said. "It takes at least two hours, as well as additional out of pocket expense, to get from Mukilteo to Edmonds by bus if you get stranded in Mukilteo."
"I got lucky, but if the alert had happened 15 minutes later I would have been stuck in Mukilteo and would probably not have gotten home until 10 p.m., if at all."
The ferry resumed service with the 10 p.m. sailing from Mukilteo on Wednesday night.