MUKILTEO — Washington State Ferries wanted an earful, and the citizens delivered.
Toll booths, traffic, motorcycles, parking and Ivar’s restaurant were among the topics at Thursday’s three-hour session at Rosehill Community Center. It was the latest in a regional series of open panel discussions about the ferries’ 2040 long-range plan, fare increases and local issues.
Daily-grind matters stole the show.
About 50 people showed up. The Mukilteo mayor and a few council members made an appearance. A panel of 16 ferry officials and planners fielded questions.
The backdrop was a postcard-perfect scene as ferries went soundlessly and seamlessly back and forth on pristine waters between the nearby terminal dock and Clinton.
At ground zero, it is anything but smooth sailing for Whidbey commuters and Mukilteans in the waterfront district of Old Town.
Some locals fear it will only get worse when the new $187 million terminal opens in fall of 2020. With the latest marine contract sewn up, no further delays are expected. Work will continue into 2021 to tear down the old terminal and piers.
Linda Wooding has lived in Old Town since 1997.
She has a long list of worries.
“The cars, the idling, the pollution, the noise, the sound, the light,” she said. “It’s like a bus stop that moved into your house.”
She mentioned property values. “I wonder if I should sell my house. It’s getting so dirty and so noisy.”
It isn’t just the ferries. It’s planes, trains and automobiles. “The flight path is over us,” she said.
When complete, the ferry will have designated holding lanes that will, theoretically, eliminate the backup of traffic on the Mukilteo Speedway.
But the party will still be in her front yard, from predawn until after midnight.
“Mostly it’s people from Whidbey Island that are benefiting. The Mukilteo interest is sort of off to the side,” Wooding said. “We’re not a doormat.”
Mukilteo resident Jennifer Baxter said a shuttle is needed to get people to and from the terminal to ease congestion in her waterfront neighborhood.
“I wish the state would realize the impact they are placing on our communities by not planning for parking,” she said.
The concerns cover both sides of the Sound.
Those living on the island have their own set of ferry woes, including spending hours a day to commute to mainland jobs.
“Overnight parking is a major issue for all of us in Clinton who don’t want to drive across every day,” said Joan Grabo, an island resident for 35 years.
“We have friends and family who want to come over and don’t want to drive on, and it is limited to four hours. So they have to sit in the ferry line and wait.”
The wait often begins in the toll lines.
Clinton resident Kathleen Carosi suggested dedicated toll booths for commuters with tickets at the ready so they wouldn’t have to wait while day-trippers and tourists fumble for the right change.
Anyone who has missed a ferry due to this can attest to that frustration. That 30-second delay can result in a 30-minute wait for the next boat.
A Good to Go! sticker approach to ease the lines is an option being explored by the state.
Another topic was whether vendors such as Ivar’s will be accessible to ferry riders. As it is now, people can grab a fish fix or ice cream cone while waiting in the holding lanes.
Then there’s that old matter of money, money, money.
The Legislature’s budget requires a fare increase in 2019 and 2020, and an increase in the capital surcharge to fund construction of new ferries in the state’s aging fleet of green-and-white workhorses.
The long-range plan is for 16 new vessels to replace the 13 that would be retired, with three as backups during maintenance and repair.
Who’s going to pay is undecided.
It can be applied evenly to all tickets or differently to the variety of fares.
Big trucks pay more than cars.
Motorcycles pay less than cars — and riders get on and off first. Someone suggested they fork over a bit more money.
The fare on the Mukilteo-Clinton route is $4.95 for a motorcycle and $11.40 for a standard car.
Another idea was to let the single-ticket day-trippers (the ones that hold up the lines) absorb more of the cost than the commuters.
Bicycle surcharges ($1 on the Mukilteo boat) netted $458,000 in route-wide revenue in 2018. That’s another money-maker.
Bob Ortblad, a retired civil engineer, came from Seattle to weigh in on the long-range plan.
“I read all 350 pages and I find it incomplete,” he said.
He said an underwater tunnel is the best solution, and that it could be accomplished with some Scandinavian know-how.
Another person chimed in that a bridge would do the trick.
But for now, all systems are go for a new terminal.