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All options on the table as city looks to fix Fauntleroy ferry dock

(File, Associated Press)

Should the state move or even eliminate the ferry dock at Fauntleroy in West Seattle? All options are on the table as the ferry system plans to fix the dock and eliminate all the neighborhood congestion.

Are passenger-only ferries the key to solving our congestion?

The Fauntleroy Dock was built in the 1950s, and it really should have been replaced years ago. It’s a vital link to Vashon Island and Southworth. It’s the fourth busiest route in the system, serving more than three million vehicles a year, pre-COVID.

There are both structural and operational issues with the Fauntleroy Dock. Dave Sowers, director of terminal engineering, said the old wooden pilings need a seismic upgrade.

“For this terminal, for example, in a moderate earthquake, we could lose parts of the terminal,” he said.

And then there is the operation problem, given that the boats that service the route carry 124 cars, and the dock holding area only has space for about 80 cars.

“On a single sailing, you’ve got at least 40 or 50 cars, just for one boat, piled up on the city street backed up toward Lincoln Park,” Sowers said.

It can back up even further on summer weekends. That backup has a huge impact on the community around the dock.

So what to do about it?

“We’re going to look at replacing in-kind,” Sowers said. “We’re going to look at bigger, longer, and we’re going to look at relocation — everything is on the table.”

Sowers said that includes eliminating the West Seattle dock and making the runs from Southworth and Vashon direct to Colman Dock in downtown Seattle, though that has just been suggested.

The ferry service just moved the Mukilteo terminal, but there was land nearby that the ferry service could acquire. It doesn’t have that luxury in West Seattle.

“The state or one of our partners doesn’t have a lot of real estate that we can just say, ‘oh, well, there’s where we can park 200 cars,'” Sowers said.

I don’t think the City of Seattle would just volunteer a few acres of Lincoln Park either.

Washington ferry ridership drops to lowest levels in almost 50 years

Sowers said the ferry service is looking for open-minded community members willing to get their hands in the dirt to figure this out. The ferry service is putting together a community task force to help guide the discussion.

“The riders, literally the neighbors, folks in West Seattle, to bring them together and talk about what’s a good solution,” he said.

The state is looking for about 20 people willing to spend the next two years finding a solution. You can find the application here. The deadline to submit is April 23.

“The community advisory group should include not just the community around Fauntleroy, but the ridership, including folks from Port Orchard, and from Southworth, and folks from the island,” Sowers said. “We want it to be a well-rounded group.”

Construction for the new terminal is scheduled to be funded by the legislature in the 2025-27 biennium.

“We can’t afford to sit around on our hands and wait for this problem to solve itself,” Sowers said.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.

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