Moving the ferry isn’t the solution

By Kevin Stoltz, Mukilteo City Council | Aug 10, 2011

You may have heard of the four preferred alternatives for moving the ferry at Mukilteo’s waterfront – the preference by the mayor and the council (by a vote of 4-1) is Option 1, which puts the new ferry terminal at the far end of the Tank Farm near the Boeing pier.

The other three options are Option 2, which puts the terminal adjacent to the Sounder station, an option that leaves it where it is but includes the elimination of Ivar’s and the Art Building, and a “do nothing” option.

It likely comes as no surprise to most that I was the one in the 4-1 vote but even if the other missing councilmembers had been there, at best it would have been a 5-2 vote and likely a 6-1.

Until about a week ago, my preference had been Option 2, which among other things represented the most efficient use of space, was closest to transportation connections (i.e. Sounder station), and unlike the selected option, didn’t create a four-lane road the entire length of the tank farm parallel with the waterfront.

After discussing the decision with a representative from the Tulalip Tribes, I’m now in favor of the “do nothing” option with some intelligent mitigation.

Although I’m disappointed with the council vote, I’m not surprised. Here’s why.

Months before the council vote I witnessed the mayor claiming the city was in favor of Option 1. Knowing this, it was surprising to me that when this item came before the council, our packets didn’t even have a recommended option.

Instead the recommendation of Option 1 came at the council meeting itself and the council did what they do best and rubberstamped the recommendation from the administration.

Apparently, the compelling reason the city has selected Option 1 is because it moves the ferry as far toward Everett as it can and gets someone else (the state) to foot the bill for the most expensive option.

It also appears to play into the Mayor’s (and one councilmember’s) preference to have a new road to the ferry, originally down Japanese Gulch but now down Edgewater Gulch.

Unfortunately, a small dose of reality is needed to fend off a severe case of ignorance because anyone familiar with the study the city commissioned a decade ago for a road down Japanese Gulch knows the council then adopted that as the future plan and, despite what appears to be a commitment to eventually turn Japanese Gulch into open space for the community, the actual policy currently in place is just the opposite.

This explains why Mukilteo has yet to annex from Everett the two parcels acquired by the city in recent years.

Everett has made it clear de-annexation of property in Japanese Gulch to Mukilteo comes with the stipulation that a road will not be allowed. Although Everett is not in favor of any roads down the gulches, they likely have less say than they would as a condition of de-annexation to Mukilteo.

Considering the selected option does result in a four-lane road next to four railroad tracks, thereby completely dissecting Mukilteo from its waterfront, one might wonder, what’s wrong with Option 2?

Although the indication I have from the representative for the Tulalip Tribes indicated they would prefer neither options 1 or 2, there’s more evidence of tribal shell middens in the area of Option 2.

Taking this into account and listening to some of the suggestions of what could be accomplished with the “do nothing” option, I believe there is a much greater chance of a vibrant Mukilteo waterfront accessible to all, including Mukilteo residents, by “doing nothing” and incorporating some smart and cost effective “interim” enhancements.

Let’s face it – the state isn’t in any position to fund moving the ferry terminal now or in the near future. Especially considering many of the original benefits, including over water holding and a second slip are no longer  considered “financially feasible.”

Add to that the fact that the Mukilteo-preferred option is the most expensive, includes a lame “day lighting Japanese Gulch creek” provision AFTER passing under Mukilteo Lane, four railroad tracks, a new four-lane road, and dumping out right next to the ferry landing, and it’s obvious (I think) the state won’t be able to justify spending money they don’t have on this. Justifying a new road down any gulch is even less likely.

So what are some of the enhancements that could happen with the “do nothing” option? They’ve all been discussed before and, unfortunately, while there’s still great support from outside of Mukilteo, our city is its own worst enemy and until Mukilteo electeds get on board, we won’t get anything.

Relieving traffic, pedestrian and parking congestion through the ferry dock intersection is of primary importance. Remember the multiuse park-and-ride at Paine Field that serves Mukilteo commuters during the day and parking for ferry commuters at night?

How about the pedestrian underpass with a corresponding wider pedestrian path on the SR-525 bridge?

And there’s the parking garage tucked in next to the SR-525 bridge providing parking, a place for bus circulation and alternate access to SR-525 (bypassing the ferry dock intersection).

And, finally, there’s the restoration of alternate access to the waterfront via First  Street and, dare I say, access on the Tank Farm.

I may sound a bit harsh this month, but I’ve witnessed a severe degradation of the quality of life in my neighborhood the past several years as a result of the decisions made by my own city.

I fear if we don’t start working for the best interest of everyone in these trying financial times, we’ll not only be left with only the “do nothing” option, but also left with no hope to fix the mess we’ve created in the process.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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