New Mukilteo ferry terminal nears construction start date

Ferry officials seemed a bit ebullient Wednesday night in Clinton, and who could blame them. After several decades of planning and dreaming, it looks like the move of the Mukilteo ferry terminal could be imminent in bureaucratic time.

“Today was a huge step,” said David Moseley, chief of the Department of Transportation’s Ferry Division. The environmental impact statement was declared finished that day, and just this week Sen. Patty Murray said transfer of the old Air Force tank farm property to the Port of Everett is on schedule.

The new ferry terminal will be built on the tank farm property. It’s a short distance from the present terminal, just past the Silver Cloud Inn. The present car holding area would be abandoned, with part of the land still owned by the state and part owned by a private party that leases it now for ferry use.

The new terminal would be designed for overhead loading of passengers, saving considerable time, and would have more convenient commuter access to train and bus transportation. Design work could begin this summer.

Some in the audience of 20 people worried about additional overnight and ferry visitor parking, which Moseley admitted isn’t in the plan. The emphasis is on “multimodal.” But he said the city of Mukilteo someday hopes to have a parking garage, perhaps on the present ferry holding lane property.

Money for the new terminal is mostly in the bag, Moseley said. While funding is still about $37 million short, a federal grant the ferry system has high hopes for could fill the gap.

“We will start construction next fall, 2014,” he said, offering up a best-case scenario. If the grant is lost, it might have to wait until 2015.

Dave Hoogerworth, chair of the Clinton Ferry Advisory Committee, told the crowd some good news is coming out of the present legislative session. A commuter parking lot in the Paine Field area will likely be funded. “It’s just been announced,” he said. “You’ll have to take the bus or your car to the top of the hill.”

Moseley also discussed the outlook for more 144-car ferries. Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Freeland is working on the second such ferry now. A third ferry is in a package being considered by the Legislature, he said, but that would require a controversial gas tax increase. Legislators are now in special session haggling over transportation projects, among other issues. A fourth ferry apparently isn’t in the cards for this session.