New Mukilteo ferry terminal clears key hurdle

A key federal agency has given its blessing to the building of a new ferry terminal in Mukilteo.

Washington State Ferries announced Thursday it had received a “record of decision” from the Federal Transit Administration that signals completion of the lengthy environmental review process for the $129 million project.

The decision, issued Aug. 22, represents the last major bureaucratic hurdle the state needed to clear in order to move ahead with final design and construction of the new terminal roughly one-third mile east of the existing one.

“This is a major milestone for this project. This was the big piece,” said Capt. George Capacci, interim director of Washington State Ferries.

“After a decade of environmental review and collaboration with federal, state, and local officials, tribes, and the public we’re looking forward to building a safe and efficient new terminal that opens the Mukilteo waterfront and improves access to transit,” he said.

The new terminal will replace the current 60-year-old facility. Last year, it was used by 3.9 million vehicles and riders. It has not undergone any significant improvements since the 1980s and, as a result, is in need of repairs and is vulnerable to damage in earthquakes.

Once complete, the new terminal will have a pedestrian loading bridge, a six-bay bus transit center and improved connections to the nearby Sound Transit commuter rail station.

It also will feature a vehicle holding area with a capacity of about 266 vehicles, reconstruction of the First Street/Park Avenue intersection and the realignment and extension of First Street as a four-lane roadway with sidewalks and bicycle lanes.

State and federal dollars will cover the $129 million cost of Mukilteo Multimodal Project. As of now, Washington State Ferries has lined up roughly $47 million in federal aid and $82 million in state dollars. Most of those dollars are authorized but will need to be appropriated to be spent, he said.

The first phase involves removal of an old pier on the Mukilteo Tank Farm to make room for the new terminal. Washington State Ferries hopes to seek bids in October, with work to get started in spring 2015.

In the meantime, final design of the terminal must be completed, Capacci said. Washington State Ferries is aiming to advertise for bids on the project in August 2016 and construction starting in 2017. The new terminal is expected to open in 2019.

The federal decision provided a much-needed piece of good news for beleaguered leaders of Washington State Ferries.

A series of recent incidents — including cancelations, vessel breakdowns and overloaded boats — have incited calls from lawmakers for changes in how the system is managed and who is managing it.

And the agency is without a permanent leader, though that could soon change.

A search is under way for a new ferries director and Sunday is the deadline to apply.

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com and on Twitter at @dospueblos

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