City should reconsider its preferred ferry option

Feb 29, 2012

Like everyone else who has an opinion about the future of the Mukilteo ferry landing, we have our preferences. Ideally, it would be located elsewhere – Everett or Edmonds would be fine with us.

But if wishes were money, we’d all be millionaires. Neither Everett nor Edmonds wants our headache. The state doesn’t appear to have any interest in moving it out of town, either.

Our second choice, then? Move it to the east side of the tank farm property with a new road off Seaway Boulevard. No, not through Japanese Gulch, which we support preserving, but on the hill above it.

Again, Everett isn’t interested – the right-of-way is in their city – and there’s no money for a new road, anyway. Proposals to build a road through other gulches farther east to a new ferry site have similar political and monetary hurdles.

That brings us to the probable options, which were laid out last week on these pages and during an open house at Rosehill Community Center.

The mayor and a council majority have come out in favor of an option called Elliot Point 1. It places a new ferry landing toward the east side of the tank farm. It would be accessed by a new road off the Speedway that parallels the railroad tracks, and includes a large vehicle holding area and transit center (read: parking lots) on each side of the landing’s entrance.

It is, frankly, the wrong choice.

Proponents point out that this option would finally clear up the Front Street-Speedway-ferry loading/unloading nightmare, a public safety consideration. It would eliminate most or all of the need for a ferry holding lane on the Speedway, too.

Proponents also tout the addition of a promenade along the waterfront. That’s a fancy term for a sidewalk.

Besides the fact that this option is the most expensive of the four, it also uses up 11 acres of valuable waterfront property to move traffic through Mukilteo, with no economic benefit to us.

The Elliot Point 2 option is similar with a slightly different configuration and a smaller price tag, but is no less objectionable. Why waste this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build something special on the waterfront, and give it up to commuters and tourists who generally spend little time and money in our community?

Option 1, the “No Build” alternative, fixes none of the traffic/circulation problems but still would cost around $65 million to repair the current site’s failing equipment and facilities. We think that’s a poor choice, too.

That’s why we favor the “Existing Site Improvements” alternative. With this option, the vehicle holding area could be expanded to include the existing parking lots east of the current holding area, so that the holding lane on the Speedway would be rarely needed.

A reconfigured intersection at the Speedway and Front Street with new signalization could improve traffic flow.

Yes, Ivar’s and, perhaps, Diamond Knot would have to move. Give them first choice to rebuild along the waterfront east of the Silver Cloud, where they could become part of a mixed-use project that would include other restaurants, galleries and shops, as well as open space for Mukilteo’s citizens to enjoy.

The value of waterfront property is difficult to pinpoint; it depends on a variety of factors. We looked at the current assessed value of the Silver Cloud – $5.1 million on slightly more than a third of an acre – and a real estate estimate at Losvar’s condominiums – $338 per square foot, which comes to about $14.7 million for an acre of developed property.

Extrapolate either figure out to 11 acres, and you’re looking at more than $150 million of potentially taxable property that our elected officials propose to turn into a parking lot.

None of the options are ideal. All have shortcomings. But the Elliot Point options, both of which turn most of the tank farm into a vast commuter and transit center, are surely shortsighted.

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