MUKILTEO — Only one year to go.
Out of the construction rubble and dust, the much-awaited, overbudget ferry terminal finally is taking shape.
The long, low two-story structure with a high, sloping roof is starting to look like the picture of the artist’s rendering.
After years of debate, setbacks, revisions and a bunch of money — $187 million and change — the terminal is on track to open in the fall of 2020.
“October of next year, right around Halloween,” Washington State Ferries spokeswoman Diane Rhodes said.
On a hardhat tour Wednesday, Rhodes explained what’s to come under the sloped roof, which will be solar-paneled.
Walk-on passengers will board on the top floor while vehicles load from the car deck below.
The terminal will offer a majestic view of the water and surrounding islands.
“The area in front will be glass windows,” Rhodes said. “There’s a stand-up counter. You can stand and work on your laptop while you’re waiting for the ferry to come.”
Or, better yet, you can unplug, gaze over the vast sea and daydream.
“The Tribes asked us to be welcoming from land and water,” Rhodes said.
This includes a carved canoe suspended from the ceiling and glass etchings on the elevator shafts by Tulalip Tribes artists Joe Gobin and James Madison.
The men’s artwork is also at Lighthouse Park near the existing terminal, built in 1957, one-third of a mile away. The 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott was signed in this area, forcing tribes to resettle at Tulalip Bay across Port Gardner.
The terminal is styled after a tribal longhouse. The cement exterior texture mimics Douglas fir and will be stained.
Interpretative signage will be in Lushootseed, a Coast Salish language spoken by local tribes.
Passengers walking off will use either the elevator or stairs to conveniently catch a nearby bus or train or car ride.
Convenience doesn’t happen much now in any stage of ferry-catching, except when it comes to getting an ice cream cone or chowder bowl from the Ivar’s walk-up window. Ivar’s is the go-to place for many trapped in the holding bay.
“The holding lanes will hold a boat-and-a-half of traffic,” Rhodes said. Cars will not line up along the Mukilteo Speedway anymore.
A separate building by the holding area will house bathrooms. “When you’re in the holding lanes, you don’t have to hold it,” Rhodes said.
A row of portable toilets serve current holding traffic past the toll gate.
There will be a space for a food vendor. The ferries sent out a survey asking people what they wanted and the city is working on that.
“Everybody wants to know what’s going to happen with Ivar’s,” Rhodes said.
Terminal construction was delayed in August 2018 when five bids on the major phase were rejected due to being over the Department of Transportation estimate of $65 million. It was divided into separate bids for land and water projects.
In January, IMCO General Construction, the lowest bidder at $49.7 million, began work on the terminal, holding lanes, toll plaza, maintenance building and promenade. Manson Construction won the $26.4 million contract to build the marine structures, such as the vehicle transfer bridge, overhead pedestrian walkway and fishing pier. That phase starts in mid-October, Rhodes said.
Also in a few weeks, the popular unpaved pedestrian walking path near the railroad tracks will reopen so you can get a closer look at what’s going on. No more having to squint and wonder from afar.
The path starts at the train station. No hardhat necessary.
Rhodes said this is one of the most extensive ferry terminal projects not only in the state but also nationwide. Washington’s system is the largest in the U.S.
The new terminal is a boost for the city.
“It’s really the linchpin that starts that transformation of the waterfront,” Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said.
“Our waterfront is part of the steps that happen after the new terminal is open. It will be a beautiful space with good public access so everybody can enjoy it, even if they’re not ferry riders.”
What about Ivar’s?
“They are thinking about some kind of mobile delivery, where people can order from their cars and get food delivered while they are in the new holding lanes,” Gregerson said.
The state plan does include parking. Options near the terminal by other parties are still in the works.
The possibility of off-season extended parking in Lighthouse Park for non-residents might finally happen this October. If approved by the City Council, people will be able to park up to 12 hours for a fee in 33 spaces.
That means more people can soon walk on the ferry for a day on Whidbey Island, which on the south end has free bus service daily except Sunday.
And what better timing, just as fares are increasing?
The Washington State Transportation commissioners approved hikes for passengers and cars this fall and again next spring. The first phase that kicks in Oct. 1 has a 2.5 percent increase for cars and 2 percent for passengers.
The second phase, starting May 1, 2020, repeats the 2.5% vehicle and 2% walk-on increases. It also calls for the capital surcharge, now a quarter, to double to 50 cents on each fare.
The Mukilteo-Clinton route serves more than 4 million ferry riders each year and is one of the busiest routes.
It’s about to get even busier.