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WSF project raises questions for PO boat
The King County Water Taxi may be forced to find a new place to dock in Seattle, should the state follow through with its plan to demolish Pier 50, where the boat currently pulls up.
Joe McDermott, who represents Vashon on the Metropolitan King County Council, and others are fighting Washington State Ferries’ plan to destroy Pier 50 as part of a $210 million project to rebuild Colman Dock.
Since 2009, the King County Ferry District has leased Pier 50, which sits at the south end of Colman Dock, from the state. But according to current plans, when construction begins on the dock in mid-2015, the passenger-only water taxi — which has a dozen sailings a day from Vashon and West Seattle — as well as the Kingston SoundRunner passenger ferry, must find a new home.
The public can comment on the plan through mid-March, and a public meeting for the project is planned for Thursday in Seattle.
McDermott said he opposes the state’s plan because it makes the most sense for water taxi riders to get off at the Colman Dock. The streets around the dock are already designed for foot traffic since a large number of pedestrians get off the car ferry there as well, he noted. What’s more, he said, it’s in the heart of downtown and home to several bus connections.
“It’s mandatory that we have a (passenger-only) dock somewhere in the downtown core,” McDermott said. “It strikes me as making imminent sense.”
McDermott, who chairs the board that oversees the ferry district, is concerned it will be difficult for the county to secure a new spot for the water taxi, and a new location could be far away from where commuters want to be.
“Real estate (at the waterfront) is pretty tight,” he said. “We would certainly work to find something, but it makes more sense to provide it there.”
Nicole McIntosh, WSF’s terminal design engineering manager, said in an email that the wood at Colman Dock is aging and due to be replaced by a new concrete structure. At the same time, WSF plans to reconfigure the dock layout for greater efficiency and safety at the terminal, where ferries from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton unload.
McIntosh said car vehicle currently located at the north end of the dock will be relocated to the south end, meaning Pier 50 will have to go.
Vashon’s water taxi buzzed with the news of the plan last week, but commuters reached by The Beachcomber had mixed feelings about the plan.
“It doesn’t cause me worry,” said Mike Sudduth, who works for the county at an office in Pioneer Square. “I’m sure they’re not going to eliminate a place for us to depart and arrive; it will just be located elsewhere.”
Craig Beles, an arbitrator who also has an office at Pioneer square, said he’s enjoyed the short walk from the water taxi for years and has seen the service threatened more than once.
“I’m not dead set against moving the (passenger-only) ferry dock, as long as there’s an alternative that doesn’t move it very far,” he said.
Joseph Bogaard, who often takes the water taxi and rides his bike to his office on lower Queen Anne, agreed, but added that a lot of people will be in trouble if the county cannot secure a new downtown location for the boat.
“In some ways it would call into question a downtown destination for the water taxi altogether,” Bogaard said. “It’s certainly cause for concern for a whole lot of people who use that to get to and from work and home. At this point it seems like there are more questions than answers.”
David Moseley, head of WSF, said in an email that the county has been aware of a possible Colman Dock project since last year and that WSF has been in talks with county officials for the past few months. He said King County and other agencies interested in passenger-only ferry service to downtown should consider where the best location for their terminal would be, and WSF would be happy to listen to their ideas.
“There are number of potential locations along the waterfront,” he said in the email. “If passenger-only operators/agencies would like to talk with us about space in or around Colman Dock, we have committed to them that we will be happy to have those discussions.”
McDermott said he has written letters to WSF on behalf of the ferry district, is in talks with state officials about his concerns and is working with the Port of Kingston as well as other communities that have expressed interest in their own passenger ferries.
He hopes that if enough commuters and stakeholders ask for Pier 50 to stay, the state will reconsider its plans.
Kari Ulatoski, a longtime ferry advocate for Vashon, is also worried and is working to rally people to fight the state’s plan. She has sent out several emails to alert commuters, has been answering questions about the plan and is encouraging water taxi riders to attend Thursday’s public meeting in Seattle or send feedback to WSF.
“It seem as though King County, the (state Department of Transportation) and WSF need to get on the same page,” she said. “Somehow people aren’t talking to each other as stakeholders and are leaving it up to public outcry.”
The public can comment on the Colman Dock project through March 15. To comment, visit www.surveymonkey.com/s/ColmanDock, email FaulknE@wsdot.wa.gov or mail comments to Washington State Ferries, Attention: Marsha Tolon, 2901 3rd Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle, WA 98121.
Washing State Ferries will hold a public meeting on the project Thursday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. at the Puget Sound Regional Council board room, 1011 Western Ave., Suite 500, in Seattle.