Long ferry ride to Clinton is money in the bank for local businesses

It wasn’t so great for travelers, but it was dynamite for business. The first round of ferry detours from Clinton to Edmonds and back this past weekend served up 90-minute waits between boats and plenty of pizza and burgers on the Clinton shore.

Shirley Wilson of Shirley’s Kitchen watches for potential customers at the Clinton ferry dock Monday. The snack shack boasted booming business over the weekend

CLINTON — It wasn’t so great for travelers, but it was dynamite for business.

The first round of ferry detours from Clinton to Edmonds and back this past weekend served up 90-minute waits between boats and plenty of pizza and burgers on the Clinton shore.

“It was really good for us,” said Shirley Wilson of Shirley’s Kitchen at the foot of the Clinton ferry dock. “I wish the ferry would go to Edmonds all the time.”

This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday were the first of three successive weekends during which the Clinton-Mukilteo ferries were rerouted to Edmonds, while maintenance and repairs are made at the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal.

The detour will be back in effect this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday and the three-day weekend after that while work at Mukilteo continues, ferry officials said.

“We did pretty well, considering,” said Marta Coursey, spokeswoman for Washington State Ferries. “I’d say most people knew what to expect.”

Hour-and-a-half waits greeted ferry travelers to and from the mainland. The routine trip that usually takes 18 minutes was stretched to 50 minutes, with corresponding extra time on the dock and in holding lanes, especially in Edmonds.

Some travelers preferred to drive over Deception Pass rather than wait for a ferry. Others just didn’t go.

“It turned out to be a burden,” said Jeff Williams of Langley, who works for a tech firm in Bothell, to which he commutes during the week. “I decided to spend my time at home.”

Williams said he worked from his house this past Friday, and will do so again the next two Fridays.

“I enjoy riding the ferry,” Williams said, “It’s a change of scenery and an interesting part of my commute. But not when you add so much time.”

Coursey said the most severe problems occurred mid to late Friday afternoon in Edmonds as ferry travelers attempted to navigate the temporary arrangements in an effort to get back to the island.

Edmonds, which normally handles only the run to and from Kingston on the Olympic Peninsula, was faced with simultaneous manipulation of traffic from a second ferry route.

Coursey said that despite the extra Washington State Patrol personnel brought in to help with the traffic, vehicles at times were backed up the hill to the beginning of the ferry access lanes.

She said a few vehicles got in the Kingston lanes by mistake, and had to be turned around and directed to the right place by the State Patrol.

“I heard of at least two people who got on the wrong ferry and went to Kingston,” Coursey said.

She said the Friday afternoon traffic flow was further disrupted by at least two freight trains moving along the Edmonds waterfront.

But Coursey said that only a few vehicles missed the boats their drivers were counting on, and were forced to spend another hour waiting for the next one.

Meanwhile, work at Mukilteo is proceeding on schedule, Coursey said. Hoist maintenance was completed this past weekend, and crews will focus on the onshore control system this weekend.

She said work should be completed by April 3 on schedule, and that further detours to Edmonds are not expected.

“There’s no reason to think that will happen,” Coursey said.

In Clinton, however, the detour went straight to the bottom line for local businesses, especially eateries, that have had a difficult time in the current floundering economy.

Shirley’s Kitchen dispensed at least twice as many burgers and other edibles as usual, thanks to the longer wait for the ferry, Wilson said.

“People had more time to come in an eat,” she said. “This helped us tremendously. We needed it.”

She said she stocked up on provisions as soon as the detour was announced, and that she’s ready for the next two weekends, too.

“We’re hoping for sunshine,” Wilson said. “The weather makes a big difference how many people get out of their cars.”

Up the hill at Cozy’s Roadhouse in Clinton, business was also brisk during the weekend, said owner Stephanie Cook.

She said the detour kept many locals — and their entertainment dollars — home, while the longer waits brought in business from those in the ferry line for Cozy’s pizzas, hamburgers and other items.

Cook said that several traveling families came in to eat and to use the bathroom, and others asked for plates and utensils to go, along with take-out to be eaten in their vehicles.

“We were very busy all weekend,” she said. “It was our assumption we’d be busier than usual. It’s nice when you’re right on those things.”

Wilson and Cook said there were scattered grumblings about the added ferry wait, but that most people seemed to be prepared for it.

However, Wilson’s son, Raymond Chapdelaine, was amused by at least one complaint.

“A lot of people who live in Mukilteo could see their houses from here, but they still had to go to Edmonds to get home,” he said.

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