By Bill Sheets Herald Writer
MUKILTEO — After years of delays and uncertainty, a major step has been taken toward building a new ferry terminal in Mukilteo.
State ferry officials have picked a site: the west end of the former Air Force tank farm, just east of the waterfront business district.
The site was chosen over rebuilding the ferry dock in its current location or another option of building at the far east end of the tank farm.
Building on the tank farm next to the commercial district has received the most positive comments from the public and the least opposition, state ferries chief David Moseley said.
It’s also closer to Sound Transit’s commuter rail platform than the other sites, has the least environmental impact of the choices and, at $120 million to $130 million, is the cheapest of the three, he said.
The state has $90 million in hand for the project. The decision now will enable the state to begin final environmental studies, which in turn could attract federal help for the remainder of the cost, Moseley said.
Construction could begin in 2015 at the earliest and take up to four years, officials said.
While the choices officially included a “do nothing” option, that wasn’t really an option. The current dock structure is 60 years old and needs to be replaced, according to the state.
Rebuilding in the current spot to modern standards, though, would require more space, which would mean buying and taking out Ivar’s restaurant. The total cost for that choice was estimated at $130 million to $140 million.
Rebuilding at the far end of the tank farm was the most expensive, at $150 million to $165 million. This has been the preferred choice for most elected officials in Mukilteo, who said it would allow for more commercial development between the business district and the ferry terminal.
Still, building at the near end of the tank farm is the next best choice, Mayor Joe Marine said.
“It is certainly workable and far better than the no-build or in-place option,” he said. “We’re very happy that it will be on the tank farm.”
A short access road to the new terminal would branch off from Highway 525, relieving traffic congestion in the business district.
Regarding what to do with the far end of the tank farm, Marine said he’d like to move the public boat launch out of Lighthouse Park, and the tank farm location could be a possibility.
“We’ll just have to take a look,” he said.
Some artifacts from previous American Indian settlements have been found on the west end of the tank farm, but the state and tribal officials have discussed building on fill dirt atop the archaeological midden.
A final agreement has yet to be reached, “but negotiations appear to be going well,” said Daryl Williams, environmental liaison for the Tulalip Tribes.
The tribes preferred this site to the far end of the tank farm because more utilities would have to be added to reach the east end, which could end up being more disruptive, Williams said.
Also, if the terminal were to be built at the east end, a longer pier would have to be built to accommodate the ferries because the water is shallower, he said. This would have a greater effect on tribal fishing operations.
An old pier for the Air Force tank farm remains on the site where a west-end ferry terminal would be built. It would be torn out to make room for the new ferry dock, according to state plans.
Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; firstname.lastname@example.org.