Feeding meters in Mukilteo?

MUKILTEO — Lighthouse Park visitors may have to pay for parking next summer.

An average of 1,200 vehicles go through the newly renovated park each weekend day during spring and summer. Anyone who has visited on a sunny weekend knows that it’s more than the park can handle.

The park ha

s 337 parking spaces, plus 32 boat-trailer spots for those using the boat launch.

The park has become even more popular since Mukilteo took it over from the state and built picnic areas and other facilities.

“We’ve created a very enjoyable park, and word is getting out,” said Mukilteo Mayor Joe Marine.

It’s also possible that more people started to come here since state parks implemented a paid pass earlier this summer, said Joe Hannan, Mukilteo city administrator.

On a sunny Saturday, it’s common for someone to spend an hour in the car just trying to get through the parking lot.

The city has increased parking fines to help deal with the problem and started sending an employee to monitor the parking lot on busy days. In addition, a police officer usually is summoned to direct traffic.

“It’s definitely costing us, and we are making nothing,” Marine said.

Yearly maintenance and operation cost $175,000.

The parking lot will soon have new pavement and fresh paint to mark the parking spaces. Some markings on the parking lot are so faded now they are barely visible. People still get ticketed for parking in those spaces, but the city has done little to address the problem.

Paid parking will relieve congestion and make money for the city. Under one scenario, revenues over the next year are estimated at nearly $110,000.

In a presentation to the City Council last week, Hannan outlined several options for paid parking at the park.

He recommended using at least two electronic meters at the park. Visitors would pay $1 per hour for the first two hours and $1.50 per hour for the next two hours. Visitors could pay with a credit or debit card, print out a parking slip and display it in the car’s window. An outside parking company would manage the meters.

The system is used effectively throughout Seattle, Hannan said. The kind of meters the city is looking at cost $7,500 each.

Other options include installing a pay-box with slots for each space or using annual passes the way state parks do. Another option is to install an automated toll gate, similar to the ones used at the Sea-Tac airport. The downside is the high cost of equipment and the potential for chaos if a toll gate breaks.

A parking attendant would need to be hired either way.

During winter months, the city could provide overnight parking at the park for a fee. Overnight parking is in high demand here because of people taking the ferry to Whidbey Island.

Mukilteo officials want to move commuters and boat-launch users out of the park, Marine said. The city is working to lease part of the tank farm for commuter parking, and the boat launch is expected to be moved in the future.

“This park can’t be three different things,” Marine said.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; kyefimova@heraldnet.com

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