Residents, commuters air grievances at WSF community meeting

By Brandon Gustafson | May 29, 2019
Courtesy of: Joe Kunzler WSF Assistant Secretary Amy Scarton addresses the crowd on the new Mukilteo ferry terminal.

Washington State Ferries (WSF) has been traveling across western Washington and hosting open houses for ferry communities over the last month, and made a stop in Mukilteo late last week to hear resident and commuter thoughts on the project.

Hopefully, someone was taking good notes.

The main topic discussed was, of course, the project for the new Mukilteo ferry terminal now being constructed.

The current terminal is 62 years old, and hasn’t seen any significant improvements or upgrades since the ’80s.

Currently, the Mukilteo-Clinton route is the busiest in the state in terms of vehicle traffic. Overall, 4,174,263 million people rode the route in 2018, and the route had 2,290,462 million vehicles last year.

The new $187.3 million project has been making steady progress, and is expected to open by fall 2020.

The construction is broken into two parts: the land work, and the in-water work.

IMCO General Construction began work on the land aspects, such as the new passenger building, earlier this year.

Recently, WSF announced it had awarded the in-water contract to Manson Construction. Manson will build the vehicle transfer bridge, overhead pedestrian walkway, a new fishing pier, and more.

Prior to WSF’s panel-like discussion on the project, as well as WSF’s long-range plan and other WSF issues, posters dominated the Rosehill Community Center’s Point Elliot Room, showcasing and explaining different aspects of the project.

While much of the work appears complete, residents and commuters made sure to get their say during public discussion.

One area many Mukilteans, as well as visitors and commuters from Clinton, take issue with is parking.

Jennifer Baxter, a former Mukilteo Parks and Arts commissioner, told WSF that it, as well as other transportation agencies like Sound Transit, aren’t doing enough in terms of parking.

“Mukilteo suffers because of the lack of parking you provide for your riders,” she said.

Baxter said WSF should consider finding parking for riders and employees closer to I-5 and having them get shuttled to the terminal via transit.

“The waterfront is our major park and asset,” she said, “and we don’t get to enjoy it because of (ferry riders).”

Dode Carlson, a longtime Mukilteo resident and member of the city’s seniors association, also tackled the parking issue. In the current plans, there is no area for dedicated commuter parking, but the Tulalip Tribes and the Port of South Whidbey have discussed building a parking lot on Tulalip-owned waterfront land just east of the new terminal.

Carlson had two other ideas for parking.

The first was to explore a park-and-ride farther south on Mukilteo Speedway, similar to a project explored a few years ago. The second was to find an area on or near the waterfront in a “no view zone” to put a parking garage.

“Both are still possible,” she said. “We love our waterfront city. We don’t want more of it disappearing to parking.”

Amy Scarton, assistant secretary for WSF, said parking is the issue WSF customers are most dissatisfied with across all routes. She also said that often becomes a regional issue because a garage or lot for a ferry route involves multiple agencies, cities, and counties.

One commuter felt that motorcycle riders got unfair treatment compared to other riders. Currently, motorcyclists get discounted fares because they take up less space, and they board ferries before other vehicles. Because of this, they speed and rev their engines early in the mornings.

The long-range plan, WSF’s Carmen Bendixen said, is to add 16 new vessels, replacing 13 that need to be retired. The revenue source for that is unclear, and WSF and the state’s transportation commissioners are looking at potentially increasing fares to help with funding.

The state Legislature’s budget currently requires a bump in fare costs in 2019 and 2020, as well as other cost increases to help fund new boats.

The commuter concerned with motorcycles asked whether increasing the fee for those riders would be a good revenue source, rather than potentially increasing fees for riders as a whole, especially those who use the ferry each day for work.

WSF officials seemed to agree that was a good idea to look at.

Linda Wooding, a long-time Old Town resident, wanted to ensure safety for residents living near the new terminal was a priority. She and many other Old Town residents have voiced concerns over cars potentially driving through residential neighborhoods.

“We want to keep those cars out of our neighborhoods,” she said.

Kevin Stoltz, a former Mukilteo City Councilmember and a Mukilteo Ferry Advisory Committee member, was one of 14 people sitting at the tables up front helping facilitate discussion, and he too voiced issues he has with the project.

Stoltz, who lives in Old Town, said WSF and other agencies haven’t had good communication with Old Town residents who will be affected by the new terminal.

As far as parking, he noted that politics have gotten in the way of addressing it, such as the commuter park and ride that got axed a few years prior, but he wants to “reboot” that idea.

Other topics addressed were potential reservations, the possibility of either a bridge or tunnel to remove the need for a ferry, and increasing the cost for single-ticket purchasers, among others.

 

 

 

The open house/community meeting brought out many residents from both sides of the water to learn about the new Mukilteo ferry terminal. (Courtesy of: Joe Kunzler)
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