Time is running out to replace Mukilteo’s aging ferry dock

MUKILTEO — Nearly a year ago, travelers who usually take the ferry between Mukilteo and Clinton were forced to detour through Edmonds for two weekends while repairs were made to the dock in Mukilteo.

That was just the beginning.

The 60-year-old dock is reaching the end of its life expectancy and will soon need to be torn down and replaced, according to officials with the state ferry system.

Last year’s work replaced only the mechanical and electrical systems that operate the transfer span and its apron, the platform that connects the dock to the boats.

The wooden pilings that hold up the dock itself, including the span over which people drive, are the same ones installed when the dock was built in 1952.

The Mukilteo dock is safe for now, said Nicole McIntosh, design engineering manager for the ferry system.

“It’s important that we move as quickly as we can,” she said. “We do have an annual inspection cycle we go through. The older it gets, the more likely we’ll have little issues arise.”

The state is planning two hearings later this month to give people a chance to comment — one on Feb. 22 in Mukilteo and another on Feb. 23 in Clinton.

Last year, more than 2 million cars and trucks were driven over the Mukilteo dock and the one in Clinton — more than any others in the system, just ahead of Edmonds-Kingston, according to ferry system figures. The Seattle-Bainbridge run carried more passengers, many of them walk-on commuters, but Mukilteo-Clinton carried the most vehicles.

This fact is not lost on Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine.

“I have a study from the 1970s that says they need to move this terminal,” he said. “Why do we keep being put on the back burner? It’s certainly our time.”

Work won’t begin until 2015 at the earliest, McIntosh said. Four options are on the table, and depending on which one is chosen, could take up to four years, until 2019. If problems are found before then, the dock might have to be shut down again while stopgap repairs are made, McIntosh said.

Replacing the dock was on the ferry system’s list several years ago, along with improvements to terminals in other cities. In 2007, however, all the plans were shoved into a drawer because of funding problems at the state level.

The Mukilteo project was pulled out and dusted off in 2009 when the Legislature set aside $63 million for the project. A $27 million federal grant received since then has brought the total available to $90 million.

Most city officials prefer the most expensive option — building a new terminal at the far end of the former tank farm property — but there’s currently not enough money for that plan.

The $90 million is enough to pay for only one of the four options. This would involve tearing down and rebuilding on the current spot with no changes or improvements, at a cost of $60 million to $65 million.

The second choice would be to rebuild on the current spot with additions such as an overhead loading ramp for pedestrians and new bus bays. This option would include taking out Ivar’s restaurant and would cost $130 million to $140 million.

Either of these options would entail a total shutdown of the dock for four months with traffic diverted to Edmonds, as was done last year, McIntosh said.

The third option, preferred by city officials, involves building a new dock at the far end of the former tank farm property on the waterfront, now vacant, with a four-lane access road along the railroad tracks and new holding lanes, for $150 million to $165 million. This property is owned by the U.S. Air Force and would be transferred to the Port of Everett, which has a pier nearby and is on record as supporting a ferry terminal on the property.

The fourth option features a new dock at the near end of the tank farm for $120 million to $130 million, with other features similar to the other tank farm option.

Doing any of the last three choices likely would take more federal grant money, McIntosh said. The project’s chances could be improved by the fact that connections to other forms of transportation are involved, McIntosh said. A Sound Transit train platform is located near the tank farm.

The City Council voted 6-1 last year in support of the third option. Marine says this is the best choice at least partly because it would allow another use of the tank farm property between the ferry dock and the current waterfront business district.

If the dock is built closer, the far end of the property would be left hanging out as an appendage, Marine said.

“So what do you do with that?” he said.

City Council President Richard Emery said this option would provide the best relief for traffic congestion near the current dock.

“It separates the ferry traffic from some of the other functions down on the waterfront,” he said. “I think they all have benefits and negative aspects.”

Councilman Kevin Stoltz was the lone dissenter in the vote last year. He’d prefer a hybrid option of rebuilding the current dock and making improvements without taking out Ivar’s.

The four-lane road is a waste of space so close to the waterfront, he said. He also noted the added expense of the tank-farm options and the fact that some American Indian artifacts have been found there.

“If you talk to anybody outside of Mukilteo, they say there’s no money and they are concerned about what we might find” in terms of the former Indian village on the site, he said.

Bill Sheets: 425-339-3439; sheets@heraldnet.com.


Two public hearings on plans to rebuild the Mukilteo ferry dock are scheduled for later this month.

The first is planned for 5 to 8 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Rosehill Community Center, 304 Lincoln Ave. A presentation begins at 6 p.m.

The second is scheduled for the same time Feb. 23 at Clinton Community Hall, 6411 Central Ave., Clinton.

For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/mukdock.

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