Officials optimistic ferry project is on track

By Paul Archipley | Jun 27, 2012

When it comes to waterfront redevelopment and the ferry-landing project, long-time Mukilteans may feel a kinship with Missouri, popularly known as the “Show Me” state.

But local and state officials were cautiously optimistic Monday during a City Council worksession that the project is on track to get underway soon.

Still, at least two major hurdles remain – property transfers and funding.

NOAA – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – is awaiting transfer of the property it sits on so that planners can move forward on redevelopment there, NOAA representative Stewart Toshach said.

Likewise, the city, Port of Everett and state are waiting for the U.S. Air Force to transfer the tank farm property so that construction of the relocated ferry landing, a transit center, waterfront promenade and other facilities can begin.

Officials estimate the property transfers could take place by the end of this year or early next year.

Officially called the Mukilteo Multimodal Project, the redevelopment project on the city’s northern shoreline includes the big-ticket item – relocation of the ferry landing to a spot about halfway between SR525 on the west and the Mount Baker Terminal on the east, at an estimated cost of $120-$130 million.

So far, about $90 million in state and federal funds have been identified, although that money isn’t sitting around in a bank account waiting to be spent.

State Rep. Marko Liias, vice chair of the House Transportation Committee, said Olympia is poised to address state funding in 2013 when legislators put together the next biennial budget.

He was optimistic. “I think there’s a strong likelihood we’ll move forward with our commitment,” Liias said.

He also thought more federal help would be forthcoming, although, he added, “I can’t promise that.”

Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Mayor Joe Marine echoed his optimism.

“This is the only terminal being funded at all in the state,” Johnson noted.

“A lot of us have been working on this for years,” Marine said. “It feels like there’s enough energy to push this over the goal line.”

Heather McCartney, Mukilteo’s community development director, said the city is moving forward on several fronts while it awaits the property transfers and funding approvals.

She outlined a possible timeline of steps to be taken over the next several years: terminal relocation decision (done); NOAA transfer; tank farm transfer to Port of Everett; interim parking during redevelopment; construction of Sound Transit towers for pedestrians and pedestrian-bike bridge; new First Street connection;

Removal of the tank farm pier; construction of a parking garage; ferry landing construction (2015-19); addition of a waterfront promenade; Japanese Gulch Creek daylighting; possible boat launch relocation; fishing pier relocation.

Rep. Liias said he hoped state planners would pay particular attention to the interests of Mukilteans, including aesthetics such as fencing and lighting.

“I don’t want to spend $130 million on something that’s ugly,” Liias said.

He also suggested the state’s agencies coordinate so that a possible new Speedway bridge over the railroad tracks might be undertaken during the same timeframe, to shorten the construction period along the waterfront.

“From the state perspective, this is the most intensive development we’ll do in 50 years, so let’s do it right,” he said.

Council watcher Charlie Pancerzewski suggested planners slow down and pay more attention to the interests of Mukilteans.

“The people that live here ought to be the ones who take the lead on making sure the elected representatives know what they want,” he said.

But no one in the room bought the argument the project was moving forward too fast.

Nicole McIntosh, design engineering manager for the state Department of Transportation, noted the environmental process began in 2004. Since then, numerous public hearings and other opportunities for comment have been available.

Councilmember Randy Lord said the City Council and other city officials have been focusing on the issue for years.

“We’ve been talking to people. We understand what it means to have an essential public facility,” Lord said.

Rejecting the argument that Mukilteans aren’t being heard, Lord added, “We’re not just sitting here and drinking the Kool-Aid.®”

Noting the same small group of people generally has attended public hearings over the years, officials said there are plenty of ways for others to find out about the project, including through this newspaper and city and state websites.

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