Langley critical of ferry route closure Dec. 29

Langley City Council to write a letter in opposition of the impending temporary ferry closure.

It was a night of both action and activism for Langley council members, who decided Monday to write a letter in opposition of the impending temporary ferry closure.

During the meeting, Council Member Thomas Gill expressed concern about the temporary shutdown of the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route on Dec. 29.

Gill said he was worried about rural communities being cut off from the mainland, especially in the case of a medical emergency.

“It seems like a very irresponsible thing for the state to do,” he said.

Washington State Ferries has announced that the 18-hour closure will happen in preparation for the opening of the new Mukilteo ferry terminal.

Diane Rhodes, the public information officer for the Washington State Ferries project, said there will be a series of things happening during those 18 hours.

Divers will be cutting free a navigational structure referred to as a “floating dolphin,” because it is not attached to land. Rhodes said it isn’t possible to have any ferries running the route during that time, because the floating dolphin guides the ferry navigators into port.

In addition, connections will be made to underwater structures, operations will be transferred over from the old Mukilteo terminal to the new one and practice runs will be happening during daylight hours.

During this time, there will not be any emergency sailings allowed.

“It’s not ideal,” Rhodes said. “We definitely don’t want to shut down the route.”

After the last sailings of the day on Dec. 28, the changeover will begin. The inaugural run will be the 5:35 p.m. sailing the next day from the Clinton terminal. Rhodes said the toll booths will open an hour in advance. On the Mukilteo side, the first departure will be the 6:10 p.m. sailing.

The new terminal is one-third of a mile further down the shore than the old one and will have seven 700-foot-long holding lanes that will be able to hold up to a boat and a half full of cars. The hope, Rhodes said, is that this will help alleviate some of the traffic that is often seen backed up to the Mukilteo Elementary School during rush hour or on sunny summer days.

There is currently a temporary road that cuts through the holding lanes by Ivar’s that heads to the new terminal. Rhodes said a more permanent road will be put into place near the old Mukilteo toll booths, once they are demolished.

The date was chosen because commuter traffic is less during the week between Christmas and New Year’s, Rhodes explained. It is also when Boeing is closed for the week.

The ferry system has recommended that travelers use alternate routes on Dec. 29, such as the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry or the Deception Pass Bridge.

During Langley’s city council meeting this week, Mayor Tim Callison also expressed concern about the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry route. A budget exercise done by the ferry system that has been submitted to the legislature details proposed cuts to the route, but nothing is definite yet.

Gill and Callison agreed to write a statement to the ferry system and the governor calling for alternate arrangements to be made on Dec. 29 during the Clinton-Mukilteo ferry route shutdown. The motion was amended to include the council and the city’s support of the Coupeville-Port Townsend ferry route.