New Mukilteo ferry terminal needs $38M but work moves on

OLYMPIA — Two hurdles to building a new ferry terminal in Mukilteo should be cleared this spring, but state leaders must deal with a looming lack of money to build it.

After years of efforts, there is a $38 million hole in the budget for a new terminal at the former Air Force tank farm, east of the existing terminal. And there are signs it could grow larger.

Ground won’t be broken until 2015, at the earliest, giving ferry officials time to pull together funds from state and federal sources to cover the $140 million tab.

“I’m confident. This has been too long in coming,” said Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine. “Everybody knows this project has to be done.”

Rep. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, serves on the House Transportation Committee, which is drafting a new transportation budget. The state has made its commitment clear by paying several million dollars for environmental work thus far, he said.

“My goal is to make sure we keep the project on track, because it’s a critical improvement that needs to be done,” said Liias, a former Mukilteo councilman. “We need all the money identified before we start.”

The Mukilteo ferry terminal is among the busiest in the state’s marine highway system. It has not had significant improvements for almost 30 years and frequent users know well the congestion and conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians with the current layout.

Last May, the state chose as its preferred site at the old fuel depot. Of three alternatives, it is the closest to the transit center and Sound Transit commuter rail station. The other options were to renovate the ferry dock at its current location or build at the far east end of the tank farm.

As proposed, the state will erect four new toll booths and a new building and entryway for walk-on passengers.

The final environmental impact statement on the project is expected to be released in April. Then the Air Force can transfer its land to the Port of Everett, which will then give a slice to the state for the ferry terminal.

Agreements need to be reached with tribes regarding protection of cultural resources and treaty rights for fishing. The goal is to wrap those up this year, ferry officials said.

The terminal project’s estimated $140 million price tag includes a reserve.

Lawmakers and former Gov. Chris Gregoire only socked away $102 million in the current state transportation budget for preliminary engineering and construction through 2019.

The $38 million hole could grow to $58 million because Washington State Ferries wants to use some of those construction dollars now, knowing that the big checks for the Mukilteo terminal won’t need to be written for a couple of years.

David Moseley, assistant secretary of transportation in charge of ferries, said he’s optimistic that federal money can be secured and, maybe, extra state dollars too if a new transportation funding package wins voter approval in the next couple of years.

“I don’t think we’ll have it solved in 2013,” he said

By Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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