CHOKEPOINTS

Say sayonara to long delays at Mukilteo ferry terminal

Mar 23, 2017, 6:09 AM
Mukilteo ferry...
(File, MyNorthwest)
(File, MyNorthwest)

The Mukilteo ferry wait is one of the worst in the Puget Sound.

Photos of the ferry terminal, before and after

Drivers routinely have to sit in more than a one-mile backup just to get to the holding area in Mukilteo, but that should change when the new terminal opens in two-and-half years.

The Mukilteo-Clinton run is the second busiest in the state. It served more than four million passengers last year.

The lengthy wait times come down to a design issue. The toll booths are at the end of the Mukilteo Speedway, as is the ramp to the ferry. So even non-ferry riders get stopped during loading and off-loading.

Related: Head of ferry system says cross-training is important step forward

The new $139-million project should alleviate many of the problems.

“Four toll booths, seven 700-foot-long vehicular lanes and a bicycle lane as well,” project director Charlie Torres explained.

The site will also have a transit center. But its biggest feature will likely be the new entrance to the terminal, which will take a lot of traffic off the Mukilteo Speedway. The entire terminal is being moved to the east.

“All that congestion that you see, right there at the end of the Speedway, is all going to be shifted over east about a third-of-a-mile,” Torres said.

Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson couldn’t be happier. The city is getting its waterfront back.

“You’ll be able to go straight down to the intersection (at Mukilteo Lighthouse Park), instead of that dance with all of the cars and the pedestrians and ferry traffic and local traffic,” she said.

Mayor Gregerson knows the traffic and backups won’t disappear entirely, but it should be a big improvement.

“We’ll still have those cars, but because of how they’re placed, we’ll hopefully be able to meter them as they head up the hill,” she said.

Another added benefit of the shorter lines and more parking space at the terminal: Passengers will have more opportunity to relax while they wait.

“If you’ve been here in the summer time and you’re waiting way up the hill to try and get onto the boat, you really have nowhere to go,” Torres said. “You’re stuck in your car.”

More cars will be able to sit in the loading area at the terminal, and passengers will be able to stretch their legs.

The project also includes a 15-foot-wide pedestrian path that will eventually link Lighthouse Park and Edgewater Beach.

But there is a downside to this new configuration. It’s going to be more difficult to grab a beer at Diamond Knot or a cup of Ivar’s clam chowder while waiting for the ferry. Those spots are now a healthy walk. And there are no plans right now for expanded food services at the terminal. That is under discussion. Torres said they are considering adding some food cart options there — if it makes sense.

The terminal should open in late 2019. The new road and intersection will open in early 2020.

Tell Chris about a Chokepoint or ask a traffic question @kirortraffic via Twitter.

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Say sayonara to long delays at Mukilteo ferry terminal