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Mukilteo ferry
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New Mukilteo ferry terminal has opened to passengers

For 63 years, the Mukilteo ferry terminal has served passengers heading back and forth to Whidbey Island. The old terminal closed early Tuesday morning, and the new terminal opened hours later.

Photos: Mukilteo gets a new ferry terminal

The old terminal did its job, but it just can’t properly handle the second busiest ferry run in the state anymore. More than 4 million people went through this terminal last year, and there were just tiny bathrooms, which most people didn’t even realize were there. Walk-on passengers had to board the ferries on the same ramp as the cars.

It was time for an upgrade.

The new terminal opened a third of a mile to the east, to the old Air Force tank farm. It has all the bells and whistles, including real bathrooms and an overhead walk-on passenger ramp, though that ramp did not open Tuesday with the rest of the terminal.

The ferry system’s Diane Rhodes said the new terminal gives a nod to the local tribes that called this place home.

“It was designed to honor the tribal history of that land,” she said. “The passenger building itself is built in the form of a Coast Salish longhouse, and it is filled with Coast Salish cultural motifs.”

Passengers will see the first of this great art on the entrance to the terminal at the toll booths.

One of the key upgrades to the Mukilteo terminal is the fact that it’s a third of a mile away from the old one. That should pull some of the congestion off Highway 525, which is the main route into Mukilteo.

On any given weekend, the ferry line can stretch more than a mile long, choking off neighborhoods and restricting access to the waterfront businesses, the park, and the boat launch. But Rhodes said the new terminal won’t eliminate all of the congestion.

“It takes some of that traffic off the side of Highway 525, but I can’t lie to you, it doesn’t take it all off,” she said.

The new terminal has seven, 700-foot long holding lanes, slightly more capacity than the old terminal.

The one downside of the terminal moving is riders 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.

Beachgoers and Mukilteo residents spotted ferries going back and forth across the water all day Tuesday. Those were practice runs for the ferry captains, allowing them to get used to the new approach to the terminal.

The first ferry from Clinton to the new Mukilteo was the 5:35 p.m. run Tuesday, Dec. 29. The toll booths in Clinton opened at 4:30 p.m. The first ferry out of the new terminal was the 6:10 p.m. sailing. The toll booths at Mukilteo opened at 5 p.m.

There was no official opening ceremony because of the current COVID restrictions. Instead, Gov. Inslee, head of WSF Amy Scarton, and others shared remarks and cut a ribbon in a virtual grand opening video.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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