Washington Ferries: What’s next after the Colman Dock

Aug 10, 2023, 5:02 AM | Updated: 9:58 am

ferries next...

Project engineer Dave Sowers said it's time to start ramping up the next item on a long list of upcoming ferry system improvements. (Photo from KIRO 7)

(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.

More Chokepoints: Are we getting the message? 6 years into the E-DUI

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%

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.


s-e-a plane...

Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Hey Sea-Tac Airport, where’s my plane?

Two million passengers had to take buses to or from their planes at S-E-A in 2019, maybe 2-4% of total passengers.

2 days ago

fife orange striping...

Chris Sullivan

Fife’s orange striping test is coming to end, did it work?

Drivers should be used to the orange stripes on Interstate 5 near 70th Street in Fife, but they will be going away soon.

4 days ago

left lane camping...

Chris Sullivan

Left lane camping rule doesn’t apply to express toll lanes

It's been eight years since the 405 Express Toll Lanes opened, and there continues to be confusion over whether the left lane camping rule applies.

9 days ago

Gorst road rage...

Chris Sullivan

Felony traffic crimes continue to skyrocket in King County

Washington state is coming off back-to-back record years for fatal crashes, and the aggressive and risky behavior behind the wheel isn't letting up.

11 days ago

I-5 construction...

Chris Sullivan

Construction has returned to I-5 through JBLM

Just when you thought it was safe to get on Interstate 5 south of Tacoma, the construction workers, heavy machinery and lane closures are back.

15 days ago

(Photo from Chris Sullivan)...

Chris Sullivan

I-405 shuts down again this weekend

Interstate 405 will be a no-go all weekend between Coal Creek Parkway in Factoria and Sunset Boulevard in Renton.

22 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Washington Ferries: What’s next after the Colman Dock