By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Fauntleroy ferry dock/terminal must and will be replaced. But might it be moved, too?
At this early stage in the planning process, that’s a possibility, the replacement project’s Community Advisory Group was told tonight. During the group’s first meeting in three months, Washington State Ferries rolled out nine “draft alternatives” – including concepts, however improbable-seeming, for possibly moving the dock to Lincoln Park or Lowman Beach.
More on the nine “draft alternatives” in a moment. First, here’s what the meeting was all about. The replacement isn’t expected to go into construction before 2025, so the process is currently in the stage of developing alternatives and finalizing the criteria for screening them.
Screening is a two-level process, and when they get to stage 1, that’s the “fatal flaw” part of the process; stage 2 is “detailed analysis.”
First up, as explained by WSF’s Hadley Rodero, is to decide what locations they’ll evaluate for alternatives – not necessarily just the current site. Here’s what the meeting was for:
Consultant Mark Bandy noted they’ve heard suggestions over the years to consider a terminal relocation – Elliott Bay, Lincoln Park, even Des Moines. Here’s the analysis they did on potential locations – calculating how long the run would be, in distance and time, and how many sailings they could have:
While they have yet to decide whether to develop alternatives outside the general Fauntleroy vicinity, Rodero said they know the area meets the operational baselines, so they drafted nine Fauntleroy alternatives. Today, they have 80 vehicles’ holding space on the dock – only two-thirds the capacity of the 124-vehicle Issaquah-class ferries used on the road – and far more holding on the street beyond.
Draft Alternative A would be a dock in the same place, the same size as the current one.
Draft Alternative B would be in the same place but would increase the number of vehicle spaces on the dock to 124, 50 percent more than now, and incorporate some on-street holding.
Draft Alternative C would widen the dock – again, in the same place – to hold 186 vehicles, with no holding space on the street.
Then, riffing off past community suggestions, two alternate but nearby locations – Draft Alternative D would be a “south Lincoln Park” terminal, with a 186-vehicle dock:
Draft Alternative E, a Lowman Beach dock, also 186 vehicles:
Back to the current dock’s vicinity, Draft Alternative F would maintain the current dock size but would digress by creating two holding lanes on Fauntleroy Way, which would then be a one-way street:
Draft Alternative G, also in Fauntleroy, would use Wildwood Place southeast of the current terminal to hold Southworth traffic:
Draft Alternative H would be a Fauntleroy dock with a “remote holding area” at 45th and Fauntleroy:
And Draft Alternative I would be a Fauntleroy dock using what’s currently Lincoln Park parking as a remote holding area
Again, the WSF reps stressed the options are not officially on the table – they’re more in the throw-against-wall-and-see-what-sticks mode at this stage. But they’re a starting point for discussion.
DISCUSSION: This was not a meeting for anything even close to a decision on any of those – they were just concepts floated for the group’s consideration. So lots of time was left open for questions:
Would improvements in the speed of the ticketing process affect the need for dock size? “It could,” replied Bandy. Where do the “operation levels” come from? The WSF long-range plan – they’re still assuming 3 vessels serving 3 terminals. WSF’s David Sowers confirmed in response to another question that they’d like to look at overhead loading of passengers because it tends to speed up loading, for vehicles and passengers to load simultaneously, so they’ll be reviewing that as a possibility. One CAG member wondered why some possibilities are even up for discussion when they seem absolutely impossible, such as Lincoln Park. Rodero said it’s too early to rule anything out – “some of those have more complications than others .. at this stage we’re trying to show the full range of possibilities.” Are they talking about two slips or one? Bandy said they’re not to the stage of determining “different configurational aspects.” Where will hybrid ferries recharge their batteries? The project would not preclude electrification, WSF reps said, with Sowers adding that a charging system would require some set-aside space on the dock. What about the waiting vehicles during heavy traffic time? The numbers in these draft alternatives are just for “apples to apples” – they’re designing to 186 vehicles’ holding, Rodero said, because that’s a vessel and a half for this run, and that’s what the WSF manual calls for.
If the dock stays in its current location, how will service be handled during the construction period – would the dock have to completely close? Sowers said the early thought is that they’d build the new dock one half at a time, and keep one half in operation – that would mean more holding on Fauntleroy Way. For context, other WSF projects were mentioned – Mukilteo, for example, Rodero noted, moved to a new location, so the old dock stayed in operation until the new one was ready to go, while Colman Dock downtown has remained in operation during years of construction. In response to another question, yes, transit interface will be a consideration, said Bandy, and that’s why the terminal needs to be on a street that’s at least “a minor arterial.” Why would holding lanes be split between destinations? The reply to that was, it’s a good topic for the major discussions that are planned at the next meeting in two weeks.
Is Good To Go really an option for the new terminal/dock? That would bring in a host of other considerations, but yet again, nothing’s been ruled out, WSF reps said – while Sowers noted that GTG has not yet been implemented at a ferry terminal. Have they studied having the dock just handle the Vashon route, while Southworth boats went downtown? Short answer: No.
Asked for first “gut check” takes, a few CAG members said it seemed like keeping the dock in Fauntleroy made sense. One member observed that it’s central for those who need to go south and those who need to go north (previous studies have shown that downtown Seattle is not the predominant destination for people coming from Vashon and Southworth). But are the travel-time calculations taking into consideration the road time for those landing at Fauntleroy, not just the sailing time? Good question, said the WSF reps.
After all those questions, the meeting looked briefly at the screening process – which’ll be the next phase.
Then came questions about the questions. As one WSF rep observed, that’s a little “in the weeds,” so we’re not summarizing most of that discussion – the meeting recording should be available Thursday afternoon if you’re interested (we’ll add the link here). One question of note, whether the cost is an aspect of screening; Sowers said they haven’t really honed the cost yet, and it’s clear that some of the alternatives could cost a lot more than the others. (The project website says $93 million is budgeted.)
Again, the question relating to the notion of a dock at Lincoln Park or Lowman Beach: Would park land really even be accessible in any way for this project? Sowers mentioned the (corrected) “Section 4(f)” process required when federal funding is involved – yes, it might be legally possible, “but is it worth the time and effort and cost to do that?” If an alternative rises to the top, they’ll have to consider it.
NEXT MEETING: CAG members are being asked to “digest” what they saw and heard tonight, and then provide feedback at the next meeting March 16th. That too will be open to online public viewing – register here for the link. The project’s Technical Advisory Group is meeting in late March, too. And wider community meetings are ahead too. If you have a comment or question in the meantime, the official feedback address for the project is FauntleroyTermProj@wsdot.wa.gov. (All comments received are provided to the CAG members, too.)
P.S. If you had trouble reading any of the meeting slides we featured in-line above, here’s the full deck in PDF.