One-lane merger in Mukilteo won’t affect ferries, state transportation officials say

Cars cruise up Highway 525 heading south from the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal. An early concept to improve pedestrian and bicyclist access over the railroad tracks could eliminate one southbound lane from the proposed new ferry terminal.

A possible revision to the existing Highway 525 bridge in Mukilteo will not affect offloading ferry traffic, state transportation department officials said Tuesday.

At a meeting about the proposed Mukilteo multimodal facility, Washington State Department of Transportation engineer John Chi quelled fears over ferry traffic backups. The transportation department is researching a possible traffic flow change for southbound vehicles coming off the ferry on Highway 525 in Mukilteo.

The flap was over a “road diet” to a single lane for southbound traffic as it approached a new intersection and up the highway. Currently there are two lanes from the ferry terminal on Front Street to Fifth Street, where a signal controls traffic and just beyond it the southbound lanes merge into one all the way to the Harbour Pointe area. The fear was that the consolidation of two lanes of offloading ferry traffic, especially on a route that sees a lot of heavy freight, would create a backlog from the highway to the ferry. That’s not the case, state transportation employees said.

“Whatever you do over here is fine by us. It doesn’t affect our schedule,” said Charlie Torres, project manager for the proposed Mukilteo terminal, pointing to the planned new signaled intersection on a map.

Chi presented a pair of project ideas to the City of Mukilteo in response to a request for a pedestrian bridge. One was the separate bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists adjacent to the highway bridge over the railroad to the waterfront and ferry in Mukilteo. That was estimated to cost between $3.5 million and $7 million, well over the $2.6 million budgeted for the project. That led him to investigate ways of incorporating pedestrian access on the existing bridge, but such an idea would require the loss of a lane of vehicle traffic to widen sidewalks and create bike lanes.

Chi’s work focused on the area between Fifth Street and Front Street. By not building a new bridge, that must adhere to Americans with Disabilities Act standards regarding slope, width and ramp access, the state could improve other features along the highway. He touted sidewalks and new striped parking spaces on the east side of the highway, in addition to bike lanes on the road and wider sidewalks across the existing bridge.

The pedestrian access project is in an early stage of development. The ferry terminal is about 60 percent designed, he said. By comparison, the pedestrian bridge/access concept is 5 percent designed.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Chi said.

Ideally, a ferries spokesman said, these projects could be developed and even built concurrently. One of the existing design elements for the multimodal terminal is the creation of a cul-de-sac adjacent to where the bridge crosses toward the waterfront. If the pedestrian bridge were to be pursued, it would cut into the cul-de-sac and remove at least a handful of parking spaces so the bridge could land in that area.

Mukilteo city leaders had initially pressed for a separate bridge, and still favored that alternative at a recent council meeting.

Cyclists at the ferries meeting in Clinton on Tuesday applauded the accommodations for them. One man, responding to another person’s criticism of how much space the bike lanes need, said it was either that or they also use the vehicle lane and slow the rest of the traffic going up the slope of the highway.