Thursday, July 25, 2019

Summer travel on our busiest ferry route will improve in 2020

By Diane Rhodes
The new Mukilteo ferry terminal with Mount Baker in the distance. 

A summer ferry ride is a thing to savor. Tourists come from far-flung places to do it and, as the photos from our customers attest, it’s also something to capture. On the Mukilteo/Clinton route – our busiest route for vehicles – summertime also brings together a challenging mix of vehicles, pedestrians, and tourists every 30 minutes as ferry traffic takes over a cramped intersection in old town Mukilteo.

From July through September last year, we carried nearly 630,000 vehicles (and their passengers) across the waters of Possession Sound to Whidbey Island and back.

We outgrew our small terminal at that busy intersection of State Route 525 and Front Street in Mukilteo long ago.

Designed to hold more cars
When the new Mukilteo terminal opens in fall 2020, getting to and from Whidbey Island will be a different experience. The terminal will be one-third of a mile east of the existing one. To reach it, drivers will travel down SR 525 and turn right onto a new First Street that leads to seven holding lanes that can accommodate 245 cars, enough to fill a boat and a half. (The current lanes hold 216 cars.)

While we won’t be adding more sailings – they’ll remain at 30-minute intervals – the terminal’s location and configuration will take more ferry traffic off local streets. Even at peak travel times when there’s a two-boat wait, queuing traffic will be able to fit into the seven holding lanes and along the new First Street. This reduces the backups along SR 525 and takes ferry traffic completely off Front Street.

Geared for comfort, multimodal travel
Walk-on passengers will board via an overhead walkway as vehicles load below. This reduces conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians and makes boarding easier for people with disabilities. Once inside the new terminal, passengers will find a beautiful space in which to roam, sit, or work at a stand-up laptop counter looking out toward Whidbey Island – a big change from the tight quarters at our current terminal. People waiting in their vehicles will find a food cart and restrooms inside the holding lanes.

Cyclists will have their own dedicated lane and priority boarding. Walk-on passengers inbound to Mukilteo will find a transit center just outside the terminal with bus service. The Sounder station is a four-to-five-minute walk from the terminal.

Tribal influence
Honoring our commitment to local tribes, the building is designed in the style of a Coast Salish longhouse – albeit a modern interpretation of one. The light-on-the-earth building will be constructed to LEED Silver specifications integrating solar panels, natural ventilation, rain water harvesting, enhanced stormwater treatment, native plantings, and other green elements into its design. Tulalip master carvers are at work now creating spindle whorls, figures, and a working canoe that will be prominently displayed inside the terminal. 

A long time coming
Work on this project began in 2010 with environmental review and presentations to the City Council and public meetings and community outreach in 2012. Design started in 2014 and removal of the old U.S. Air Force fueling station and pier in 2015. The construction of the trestle and underground stormwater utilities began in 2017. Currently, construction of the terminal, maintenance building, toll booths, and holding lanes is underway and on track for a fall 2020 opening.

Back to natural
The site, previously home to 10 fuel storage tanks and a 1,360-foot long fueling pier, is being transformed into a strollable waterfront where people can linger among the natural beauty – and maybe spot a pod of orcas.

We’re excited about the progress we’ve made and for the safety and efficiency improvements the new multimodal terminal will bring when it opens next year.


Unknown said...

Too bad for Ivar's... If they don't move they will be closed within a year

JohnR said...

I honestly don't believe that this will significanly improve traffic congestion for Ferry access and holding at this Terminal. Moving the holding area down the street, and providing a "new Front St", is not going to fix the overall Ferry traffic congestion issues nor the increasing demand (Ferry).

In my opinion, this "solution" is nothing more than a poor attempt to appease both the residents and businesses in Mukilteo, and does little to improve or relieve the traffic congestion, or the ability to handle increased volume, and is typical of WSDOT's refusal to address the region's growth needs. It's been this way forever, with WSDOT only responding AFTER growth forces them to do something.

Again, just my opinion, but if they really wanted to 'FIX" the Ferry traffic issues in Mukilteo they would have established a new roadway through Powder Mill Gulch which would have allowed them to dramatically increase the holding area, taking the backups off the single lane roads, and provide direct access on, and off, the freeways. This would benefit the Ferry Riders, but admittedly would (initially) significantly impact the local businesses between Hwy 99 and the Ferry, but on the other side of the coin, it would substantially increase property values in this congested area.

Why not do the Right Thing for the Ferry Riders, and the Residents, rather than continuing to facilitate an ongoing problem and appease all the special interest groups?

Wuz said...

John R is right. So they add a couple dozen new parking spots. Won't be much help on a fRIDAY EVENING OR sUNDAY.Imagine the horror Front Street merchants will feel as waiting traffic sits in front of their establishments. I like the other concepts. Open beach. Fishing piers.I hope there will be decent parkiing for walk-ons, buses and rail travelers. Ivars Restaurant will do just fine. The sidewalk part may not survive, unless it moves. One thing we can all agree on, thank god those ugly oil pipes & barrels are gone.

Unknown said...

The real issue is larger boats. Since the larger boat was taken off the route this summer lines have increased dramatically. Larger boats, moving more people faster will reduce the demand on the holding areas and wait times.

Unknown said...

I can see that loading times will decrease by allowing cars and walkers on and off at the same time. During high usage, that 60 seconds adds up. The experience for non-ferry users should be vastly improved by taking cars out of that intersection. I hope the new food cart serves soft serve ice cream cones! Probably won’t have enough time to walk over to Ivars.

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