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New Mukilteo ferry terminal set to open in December

Mukilteo is finally getting its new ferry terminal, and it promises to improve congestion and give riders a much better experience.

On any given weekend, the ferry line can stretch more than a mile, choking off neighborhoods and restricting access to the waterfront businesses, the park, and the boat launch. This new terminal — the state’s first in 40 years — is a third of a mile to the east, which should help with that congestion, but the ferry system’s Diane Rhodes said it won’t eliminate it.

“It takes some of that traffic off of Highway 525, but I can’t lie to you. It won’t take it all off,” she said. “When we have a couple hour ferry wait, it will still line up along the side of 525, just not all the way up to the elementary school like it used to.”

A new road from Highway 525 will eventually be punched through after the old terminal is demolished.

The Mukilteo-Clinton run is the second busiest in the system. More than 4 million people used this ferry run last year. The current terminal is tiny. Walk-on passengers have to share the loading ramp with cars. It was time for an upgrade.

The new terminal will have seven, 700-foot long holding lanes, slightly more capacity than at the current terminal. There will be permanent bathrooms in the holding area and the terminal. There will be overhead boarding for walk-ons, and Rhodes said the design honors the history of the land.

“The passenger building itself is built in the form of a Coast Salish longhouse,” she said. “It is filled with Coast Salish cultural motifs.”

These include carvings from artists of the Tulalip Tribe.

But before the new terminal can open, the ferry system will have to suspend service for about 18 hours. After the last sailing on Dec. 28, both ferries will tie up in Clinton and wait there until the transition is complete.

Workers have to remove the navigation guides — known as dolphins — at the old terminal. Those are the tall, tethered pilings in the water just before land.

“What we’ll have to do is send divers down that night, and they will cut the floats (dolphins),” Rhodes said. “They’ll take them over to the new terminal by tug boat, and they will install them in their positions there in the water.”

That should take about six hours. Rhodes said the rest of the time will be used to train the ferry captains on the new landing.

“We’ve allowed a bunch of time for the captains to practice landing at the new terminal,” she said. “Once that dolphin is in place, you’ll see the vessel going back and forth and back and forth without passengers.”

This closure will cause trouble, and Rhodes has some advice for travelers.

“Anybody that has appointments on this side (mainland side) on [Dec. 29], make other plans or use the alternate route of  going over the Deception Pass Bridge,” she said. “We know it’s an inconvenience. We just hope that because it’s the holiday weekend, there won’t be as many people commuting for work.”

The one downside of the terminal moving is you will be further away from the waterfront businesses. You won’t be able to grab a quick beer at Diamond Knot or a cup of Ivar’s chowder while waiting in line, unless you want to run. You’re going to be just too far away. The ferry system is considering a food cart in the ferry holding area to give travelers a snack option.

The first ferry from Clinton to the new Mukilteo is planned to be the 5:35 p.m. run on Tuesday, Dec. 29. The first ferry out of the new terminal will be the 6:10 p.m. sailing shortly after.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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