Washington Ferries: What’s next after the Colman Dock
Aug 10, 2023, 5:02 AM | Updated: 9:58 am
(Photo from KIRO 7)
Now that we’re in the final stretch of six years of work at Colman Dock, what’s next for the Washington State Ferries?
With the new entry building open now, and a return to direct traffic into Colman Dock at Yesler Way this week, construction at Colman Dock is winding-down, and the new Marion Street pedestrian bridge should open next month.
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Project engineer Dave Sowers said it’s time to start ramping up the next item on a long list of upcoming ferry system improvements.
“The Colman Dock has been our big effort to this point, and as it comes to a close, we’re already starting to think about where we’re gonna go next,” Sowers said.
Electrification is the next big thing. The state is putting in new charging systems over the next 17 years to accommodate the incoming fleet of hybrid-electric ferry boats.
“The electrification effort starts here at Colman dock,” Sowers said. “Bainbridge, Bremerton, eventually Clinton and Mulilteo, and then 16 different ferry terminals are going to get electrification for our boats that we’re starting to build and retrofit.”
Sowers said adding all the cables and other infrastructure shouldn’t get in the way of service at the newly renovated Colman Dock.
As for the boats, the three largest boats in the fleet, the Puyallup, the Wenatchee, and the Tacoma, will undergo conversions over the next few years. The Jumbo Mark II boats will be taken out of service one at a time.
The contract to build six new electric-hybrid boats fell apart, and the bidding process has to start over. That was part of why the legislature passed a bill allowing the state to look outside of Washington for more competitive bids.
Sowers, who was the head of the State Route 99 tunnel project, said it feels good to be working on something everyone thinks is a good idea.
“I have to joke, Chris, that I came from a project that was always on the front page, was politically challenging,” Sowers said. “There were lots of naysayers, including a few of our former mayors, and now we’re working on an electrification program, and I can’t find anybody that doesn’t think it’s the most wonderful thing to do.”
But he knows it won’t be easy, and the next dock to get some attention is Fauntleroy in West Seattle.
“Similar to a Colman dock, it’s an old 1950s structure that needs to be seismically replaced and, actually, elevated because, from a climate change standpoint, it’s one of the lowest docks in the system,” Sowers said.
There are two options on the table right now, including a much larger dock that could handle up to 180 cars.
“That 80-car dock that we have out there now has its limitations,” Sowers said. “That’s part of the environmental process to try to evaluate what’s best to serve the community, what’s best to serve the ridership, and those are the things that we’re that we’re working on right now so it’s very it’s in its infancy really.”
Any construction on a new dock is years away in Fauntleroy.
And later today, the Washington Transportation Commission is expected to approve an increase in ferry fares. It’s expected to go ahead with a 4.25% increase in fares in October of this year and in October of next year. This would apply to vehicles and passengers.
The legislature is requiring the ferry system to generate nearly $420 million in fares over the next two years.
To put the proposed fare increases in perspective, let’s take a look at the Bainbridge run. It would mean a $0.40 increase for passengers in each of the next two years. It would mean a $0.55 increase for cars in each of the next two years.
Editors Note: This story has been corrected to reflect that ferry fares will increase by 4.25%
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