On the broad walkway facing the water WSDOT spokesperson Diane Rhodes (center) talks with reporters and photojournalists visiting the new passenger terminal under construction at Mukilteo on Thursday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

On the broad walkway facing the water WSDOT spokesperson Diane Rhodes (center) talks with reporters and photojournalists visiting the new passenger terminal under construction at Mukilteo on Thursday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

Passenger building offers glimpse of Mukilteo ferry terminal

The new facility connecting Mukilteo and Whidbey Island is expected to open in October or November.

MUKILTEO — Work to replace one of the state’s busiest ferry terminals is closer to completion.

The new Mukilteo ferry terminal’s passenger building, designed like a Native American longhouse, stands along the waterfront, a concrete, steel and wood sentinel staring northwest toward its partner in Clinton on Whidbey Island.

The $187 million project has been 16 years in the making, with delays, long and short, in between. The new building is scheduled to open in October or November. The existing terminal then will be torn down and removed.

Located a third of a mile northeast of the existing terminal, the new building’s design and construction meet modern seismic codes and are better for mobility-impaired accessibility, Washington State Department of Transportation deputy administrator David Sowers said during a media tour Thursday.

The current facility was built in 1957, when it wasn’t handling more than 2 million vehicles and 4 million riders every year like it does now.

On a busy day, the vehicle queue stretches 1.5 miles and snarls the Mukilteo Speedway, which is part of Highway 525. Peak use around holidays and weekends can mean a two-hour wait for a vehicle to board a ferry that crosses every 30 minutes.

The new facility should load and unload passengers faster and further away from the crowds that frequent Mukilteo’s waterfront hotel, park and restaurants. Walk-on passengers can take an elevator or stairs to reach the elevated passenger area to board, while vehicles drive on below.

The new Mukilteo passenger ferry terminal, designed to resemble a Native American longhouse, takes shape Thursday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The new Mukilteo passenger ferry terminal, designed to resemble a Native American longhouse, takes shape Thursday. (Dan Bates / The Herald)

The existing terminal has one transfer span for all passengers, so walk-ons go first, then vehicles.

“This will be much more efficient,” Sowers said. “It also eliminates conflicts on Front Street.”

Increased distance from Whidbey Island will add a little time to the sailing.

The 700-foot holding lanes can accommodate about 246 vehicles, or the equivalent of 1½ ferries, WSDOT spokesperson Diane Rhodes said. That’s 30 more than the current lot, which should alleviate some congestion along the Mukilteo Speedway.

There are no plans to cede the ferry lane along the shoulder any time soon, Rhodes said.

Once open, the new terminal will be a short distance from the Sounder station, as well as the park and ride. A drop-off and pick-up area is just east of the holding lanes.

But it will be farther from the buzz near the Diamond Knot brewery, Ivar’s and Lighthouse Park. The state is seeking a food service that would be available to those waiting in the holding lanes. The passenger building doesn’t have space and wasn’t built to house a kitchen. Sowers said the state expects to review proposals later this month.

The popular fishing pier will stay open until a new one just east of the new terminal is ready. Rhodes said the state plans to use the existing top railings, complete with carved initials and grooves worn into the wood from years of crabbers, at the new pier. The Port of Everett will continue to manage the facility.

Construction of the holding lanes, toll booths and waterfront promenade is ongoing. Most work on the new marine structures should conclude Saturday.

Ben Watanabe: bwatanabe@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3037; Twitter @benwatanabe.

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