A worker directs others on a barge as construction continues earlier this year at the new Mukilteo ferry dock. Ferries project employees recently met with Mukilteo City Council members in a work session for an update about the $167 million project. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

A worker directs others on a barge as construction continues earlier this year at the new Mukilteo ferry dock. Ferries project employees recently met with Mukilteo City Council members in a work session for an update about the $167 million project. (Andy Bronson / Herald file)

Keeping the Mukilteo ferry project pretty but not pricey

Washington State Ferries and the city are hashing out details for new bid package on the terminal.

MUKILTEO — When stuck in the ferry holding lanes, there’s nothing better than bopping over to the Ivar’s window for a soft-serve ice cream cone.

That might not be an option at the proposed new ferry terminal.

Those coveted cones are one of the details in the scheme of things still being worked out by Washington State Ferries and the city of Mukilteo.

For now, though, there are bigger fish to fry. Issues such as dealing with escalating steel costs and securing contractor bids to avoid more project delays.

Ferries project employees recently met with Mukilteo City Council members in a work session for an update about the $167 million project.

“We explained our need to repackage the bid to meet available project funding,” said ferry spokesperson Broch Bender, who wasn’t at the meeting. “We will update the council when we have more specifics.”

The recent snag came when all five bids received for a major phase of the construction of the terminal were rejected in August. The state Department of Transportation said the offers were way over budget. The department’s engineers came up with an estimate of $65 million for the work that includes building the main terminal and holding lanes.

The lowest contractor bid came in at $8 million over the estimate, but was rejected for irregularities. The next was $18 million over budget. Bids went up from there.

The ferries plan to advertise a new bid package in October with bid openings in late November. Bender is hopeful that a bid will be accepted this time, after some aspects are re-examined and tweaked to keep it within budget and draw more bidders.

“Everybody wants this to move forward as quickly as possible,” Bender said.

The bid rejection delays the terminal opening for use by about six months in 2020. “Originally we said spring and now we’re saying fall, but that could shift again,” Bender said.

Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said the ferries mentioned changing the flooring material and artwork in the new terminal, which is fine with her.

Her main concern is to keep items in the project “that really matter to Mukilteo,” she said. “Of all the things that have gone away, there are a few left that we really want.”

These involve fencing material and the promenade, a boardwalk that the mayor said will provide needed access to the waterfront.

“There is a design concept that our community and council adopted, that has treated concrete, is 15 feet wide, has benches and all those things that make it a good experience. The ferries wants to eliminate some of the design features that make it unique,” she said.

Fencing aesthetics is another concern for Gregerson, a council member since 2004 who was elected mayor in 2013 and reelected in 2017.

“The ferries want to change the fence material to a black coated chain link from the nicer material that would fit the rest of the design and from far away would kind of melt into the landscape. It would be easier to see through and wouldn’t stand out as much,” she said.

The fencing would enclose holding lanes for security reasons, ensure accurate passenger counts and prevent fare evasion. Gregerson wants there to be some type of access gate.

Otherwise, she said, “Passengers and drivers won’t be able to get out of their cars and visit the waterfront. They won’t be able to walk up to Ivar’s … It doesn’t meet today’s vision for what it means to be waiting for the ferry in Mukilteo or what we’ve thought this project may look like over the years.”

Bender said the mayor’s concerns are still on the table and that no decisions have been made. Another meeting is scheduled soon.

The new terminal is being built along the waterfront one-third of a mile east of the existing terminal. The route has more than 4 million passengers a year.

“Every public meeting I go to or when I talk to kids, everybody wants to know what’s going on with the waterfront and what will happen next,” Gregerson said.

Bender is optimistic about the end result.

”We have a commitment to build a beautiful and efficient terminal. Because of the climate now, we have to look at everything,” Bender said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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