Work on future Mukilteo ferry dock ahead of schedule

MUKILTEO — Demolition of a 1950s-era pier at a former military fuel storage site — the first step in building a new $129 million ferry terminal — is nearly complete. The work is expected to be wrapped up next month, a year ahead of schedule.

All that’s left to remove are a few rows of pilings near the shore, said Nicole McIntosh, director of terminal engineering for the Washington State Ferries. “They should be out by early February.”

The pier removal project began in July and was scheduled to continue until next month. A six-month pause was scheduled in the work timetable so it would not interfere with migrating juvenile chinook, steelhead and bull trout.

Plans called for work to resume in August and be completed in February 2017. But the pier removal went smoother than expected, McIntosh said. The contractor, Seattle’s Pacific Pile &Marine, “had the right equipment at the right time,” she said, “and the pilings came apart easier than we all expected.”

That allowed the contractor to complete the project a full year early, she said.

One other factor helped speed the project’s completion. Soil sampling for contaminants under the pier “came back clean,” McIntosh said. “So that was also a savings in time and money.”

Before the demolition project began, 60 sea stars were removed from the site and taken the Seattle Aquarium.

Although the final figures aren’t yet in, the pier demolition project also is expected to come in under budget, at around $9.5 million. The demolition initially was estimated to cost about $11 million.

Completion of the pier removal project makes way for construction of the new ferry terminal in a city that’s home to the busiest route in the state ferry system.

Last year, the Mukilteo-Clinton route was used by 2.23 million cars and trucks, accounting for 21.3 percent of the ferry system’s vehicle traffic, said Ian Sterling, ferry service spokesman Ian Sterling. Edmonds-Kingston run was second busiest, with 20.3 of all vehicle traffic and Seattle-Bainbridge was third, with 18.7 percent of all cars and trucks boarding the state’s ferries.

Even though the pier removal project was completed ahead of schedule, it doesn’t mean there will be a quicker completion of the new ferry terminal.

“They’re two separate projects,” McIntosh said. The design of the new terminal will be about 60 percent complete by the end of February. Construction won’t begin until the middle of next year, McIntosh said. The new terminal is scheduled to open in mid-2019, replacing the current 60-year-old terminal.

The recently demolished pier was built in 1951. It served the U.S. Air Force’s bulk fuel storage tanks, which closed in 1989.

The pier’s removal was complicated by debris on its surface which also had to be disposed. This included 12,000 feet of fuel lines, 800 40-gallon bags of asbestos, several tons of grass and other organic material that grew on the pier during the 26 years since it was closed, as well as railings, catwalks and mercury-filled lights.

The pier’s wooden pilings contained an estimated 7,000 tons of toxic creosote, about 4 percent of all the creosote left in Puget Sound, according to the ferry system. It was sent to a regional disposal site in Klickitat County.

Although the dilapidated pier was an eyesore, the removal project came under fire from some Mukilteo neighbors last summer. Unusually hot temperatures caused fumes from the pier’s creosote-soaked pilings to periodically be pushed by winds into nearby neighborhoods. Some residents complained that it gave them headaches and made them nauseous.

A system to mist the air as the wooden pilings were removed was also used to try reduce odors, costing about $5,500, according to the ferry system.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said in an email that completing the pier removal work ahead of schedule meant work wouldn’t have to resume again in August. “It lessens the impact on our neighborhoods, which is a relief,” she said. “It’s definitely amazing that the project has gone so quickly.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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