Here’s what was asked and answered at Fauntleroy ferry-dock-replacement meeting

(WSB file photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The Fauntleroy ferry-dock/terminal-replacement project is “where the Viaduct was in 2005,” suggested Washington State FerriesDavid Sowers at last night’s online community meeting – lots of alternatives, early stages of planning.

He should know, having led the Viaduct-replacing tunnel project in its late stages.

Sowers now oversees terminal projects (among other things) for WSF, and he did much of the talking at the meeting. Attendance wasn’t shown or announced but when doing an early attendee poll, facilitator Lauren Foster showed a result with a 6%, which she described as “one of you,” so that would suggest fewer than 20 in attendance at the start. This was the second of two meetings meant to recap where the project is now – still a relatively early stage of planning. No new information was presented, but 45 minutes were spent on Q&A, which might be of interest even to those who’ve been following the project closely. First:

Sowers recapped the reasons for the rebuild, including seismic strengthening, sea-level rise, and addressing operational challenges. The Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth route served 3 million riders pre-pandemic.

WSF’s Mark Bandy went through the alternatives currently in the early stage of consideration, all of which would replace the dock/terminal at its current location – at the last Community Advisory Group meeting, the alternate locations were officially discarded.

(A closer look at each of the nine remaining alternatives is in the meeting’s full slide deck.)

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: After the recap came Q&A. After some questioning about the process, an attendee asked whether a stoplight could be installed at Fauntleroy Way by the dock to assist with traffic flow. “Certainly an option,” said Sowers, though coordination with the city would be required. What about a roundabout? A possibility, but may not be enough space, replied Sowers. Continue using off-duty police officers? That’s still happening, he noted.

Where do riders go when they arrive at Fauntleroy? WSF’s Hadley Rodero provided a link to a 2014 study about that, while adding that a new study is planned. About 40 percent go downtown; the rest go east or south, summarized Sowers. Would ferry service be interrupted during construction? Depends on which alternative is chosen, he replied, reminding attendees that Colman Dock construction has been going on for years with ferry service continuing there. If the “one-way Fauntleroy” option were chosen – making Fauntleroy northbound – how would residents south of there get around? That’s yet to be determined, Bandy replied.

Why no alternative holding more than one vessel’s worth of vehicles on the dock (more than 124 vessels)? Actually, some alternatives do call for 186 cars – one and a half vessels’ worth. Do other docks hold multiple vessels worth of traffic? Port Townsend and Colman Dock are two examples mentioned by Sowers.

He also stressed in response to another question – why couldn’t the dock be widened to the north? – that the current graphics are just concepts – “don’t read too much into the size and shape” of how the concepts appear now, it’s very early, he said. WSF’s Marsha Tolon said “state and federal regulations” will govern many aspects of how the project proceeds, including any proposal for an expanded footprint.

What’s being done to keep the old dock in service until it can be replaced? Lots of maintenance work, annual inspections (including underwater), Sowers said. Is adding a run from downtown to Vashon under long-range consideration? No, except possibly during construction. Could WSF work with King County Water Taxi to add more runs from Vashon to downtown? Good question for King County (Metro), Sowers said. What about improvements for bicycle riding? Bandy said that’ll be a factor in planning the replacement dock/terminal. Has adding a second slip at Fauntleroy been considered? No, said Sowers, though a second slip at Southworth is under consideration. That doesn’t mean it might not happen decades in the future but it’s not needed, funded, or planned any time in the foreseeable future. What about a footbridge to cross Fauntleroy safely? That hasn’t been considered, said Sowers, and while it “sounds like a wonderful idea” there’s probably not enough space. The idea of a stoplight is more likely. What percentage of Fauntleroy traffic is single-occupancy vehicles compared to other terminals? Bandy said it’s “one of the higher-percent SOV-based ferry services.”

Regarding the alternatives with remote holding options, how would potential problems such as line-cutting be handled? WSF has a remote holding area at Friday Harbor and has policies for running that – staff in the holding area, for example. License plate recognition photography could factor into it, too. What about expanding the dock to the south, where Fauntleroy Creek meets Puget Sound? That would involve a variety of environmental concerns and regulations, Tolon said. Also: No current plans to use reservations, though Good To Go and/or advanced ticketing are under consideration

TIMELINE: Projected start of this project remains “in the 2025-2027 biennium” – “about four years from now” is how Sowers summarized it.

WHAT’S NEXT: WSF is taking comments on this stage of the project via the online open house, which you can visit here, through June 13th.

12 Replies to "Here's what was asked and answered at Fauntleroy ferry-dock-replacement meeting"

  • 4thGenWestSide May 27, 2022 (12:38 pm)

    Thanks for the updates, WSB.  This is such a complex issue.  No option will be perfect. I would think expansion would make sense if we are going to be doing such extensive work?  

    • Ellis Otrex May 27, 2022 (3:59 pm)

      Expanding would just cause more traffic as there isn’t a way to expand the streets.  There is already too much congestion in the neighborhood.  If they expand, they should move it to the city where it can be accommodated.

      • Ryan May 31, 2022 (4:50 pm)

        Expanding can’t really increase traffic because the boat size and schedule will remain consistent, meaning the amount of cars that can travel in/out of the dock cannot be changed. The debate is really about where to store cars in an efficient way. Today’s design allows for boats to leave the dock without being filled as it takes too long to get vehicles through the pay stations when loading the boats. Increasing the efficiency would result in less parked cars in Fauntleroy, not more. 

  • jerry ferry May 28, 2022 (10:59 am)

    I was on the call, and it is disturbing how imminent the plan already is. Electronic ticketing and major traffic revisions are peer alternatives, but crazy disruptive proposals are dominating the discussion. The conversation is leaning toward huge ugly changes to the Fauntleroy neighborhood for the sake of minor logistical efficiencies. West Seattle residents need to join the conversation. 

    • Bob May 28, 2022 (5:00 pm)

      Is there any way to revisit alternative sites? Why is a longer ride a reason to continue on with the serious issues and safety concerns at the current location? These 9 current options make little sense in terms of solving the bigger issues.

      • Jon Wright May 31, 2022 (11:29 am)

        No, alternative sites aren’t going to be revisited. Any alternative sites would involve a huge expense and result in reduced service on the route.

    • Jon Wright May 31, 2022 (11:18 am)

      The plan is “imminent” because the current 70-year old pier is deteriorating and seismically vulnerable and needs to be replaced.

  • Karen May 28, 2022 (1:13 pm)

    Two land holding on Fauntleroy would impact the local neighborhood unfairly.  Many homes on Fauntleroy have only one way to exit…backing out onto Fauntleroy Way.  Having a holding lane on the east side of the street would make it extremely unsafe for all of the residents of these homes.  A one way Fauntleroy option would also make it unnecessarily difficult for our neighbors to access the community.  

  • Marie May 28, 2022 (3:22 pm)

    I’m new to this topic, so I may be way off base here, but has anyone considered adding a passenger-only boat to the rotation at Fauntleroy? The Kitsap Fast Ferries are now being designed so they work with WFS docks, so no modifications needed. Also, no additional cars would be added to an already clogged system, because bus service runs to the ferry dock. Buses can bring people from the southern part of the neighborhood to the passenger-only ferry and take them back home. This would better serve people in the south of WS and reduce the congestion in the Spokane St. corridor. 

    • hj May 29, 2022 (9:05 pm)

      Assuming you’re talking about passengers on foot– foot traffic capacity is not the issue here, as all the vehicle ferries already handle foot traffic. People who find it convenient to travel by foot to/from Vashon or Southworth can do so right now. Adding a foot ferry will not address any of the other problems at hand.

  • Jw May 29, 2022 (7:27 am)

    There is some wonderful mature sealife growing on the peirs of the fairy dock. Wsb should post pics this summer during the lowest of tides. How would the sealife be relocated or preserved? A question to ask.

  • Fauntleroy Fairies June 10, 2022 (12:05 pm)

    Love the idea to feature photos from low tide on WSB — there’s a rich biodiversity under the dock! We live nearby and have a background in conservation and community development. We’ve witnessed a lot of urban wildlife at Fauntleroy Creek:

    • Waterfowl and sea birds in Fauntleroy Cove swim to the mouth to drink the fresh water.
    • Coho salmon return to spawn in October. FOLLOWUP: Near-record coho count as Fauntleroy Creek salmon-watching season wraps | West Seattle Blog…  and cutthroat trout follow them in to feast on their eggs.
    • Beaver and river otters are visitors, along with mountain beaver, raccoon, and opossum. 
    • Eagles, hawks, osprey, and other birds of prey visit regularly.
    • There was a red fox resident about 20 years ago, and coyotes occasionally move through.
    • Mallard Ducks, Wrens, Robins, Varied Thrushes, Anna’s Hummingbirds, and others nest here.
    • Many migratory songbirds move through in the spring and fall.

    Do you value nature in the city and want to protect habitat for our urban wildlife?Do you think we need to do better here in Seattle, to acknowledge the indigenous land we reside on and honor First Nations?This project could do both. There are lots of different opinions out there, and many neighbors are afraid the project will become a blight on the neighborhood, impacting property values, and creating even more traffic challenges for local residents. There are no easy answers–but it is clear this project is going to happen– and there might be an opportunity to shape this updated terminal in a positive way. We want to encourage folks to think creatively about how this project could enhance the community, and ask you to weigh-in with WSF at the online open house before June 13th. We know you’re busy! But, please consider stepping through the slides at your own pace to learn about the planning work to date and provide feedback, here: you’ll find some of our thoughts on this project. We’d be interested to hear from others, too. Are you an architect, an urban planner, a nearshore ecologist, a transportation specialist, a habitat restoration engineer, a fish biologist, a lighting engineer, or have other expertise to share? Would you be willing to provide technical insights on this project outside of the WSF process to help inform our community? (Maybe WSF would be willing to publish a series of essays that will help us understand more about what is possible?)What issues should WSF consider as they refine the alternatives?

    1. MODEL EXCELLENT STEWARDSHIP OF OUR ENVIRONMENT  We know a lot more now about environmental sustainability than we did when the dock was built 70+ years ago. It will be great to get the creosote pilings out of the water. Creating larger openings between pilings will allow for the drift logs and sand to move north under the dock, along the shoreline towards Lincoln Park. 

    This project is an opportunity to make the ferry terminal greener. The state invests millions of dollars each year to protect and restore Puget Sound nearshore habitat and advance salmon recovery. This project should demonstrate excellence in environmental stewardship. To that end:

    • Minimize the overwater structure size and its impacts on nearshore habitat. Recent work on the Seattle waterfront seeks to find innovations that improve salmon survival as they migrate out to the ocean. 
    • Use technology to mimic natural light under the dock to reduce impacts to the salmon migrating along the shore.
    • Design the dock and facility with rain gardens to treat the stormwater runoff before it drains into Puget Sound.
    • Plant lots of trees to create shade and soften the edges. 
    • Make more room for Fauntleroy Creek mouth and the wildlife that shares our shoreline by moving the dock north of the current location. 
    • Preserve, protect, and restore Fauntleroy Creek’s “Reach to the Beach” —making room for a pocket estuary at the mouth.
    • Lincoln Park’s Colman Pool is located where there once was a pocket estuary. These micro habitats are really important—where juvenile salmon can find protected waters to rear and grow as they migrate out to the Pacific Ocean. Fauntleroy Creek’s “Reach to the Beach” once provided this sort of habitat, before it was confined by residential development and the ferry dock. 
    1. IMPROVE THE COMMUNITY:  WSF will say that is not their mission. However, they are proposing big changes. Imagine how the project can be designed not simply to mitigate impacts, but to enhance the neighborhood.
    • Make more room for the terminal. Acquire property on both sides of the dock. This might also improve climate resilience, by removing homes that are vulnerable to rising tides.
    • Increase parking areas so fewer cars need to drive on the ferries. Create an inviting pedestrian connection between the ferry terminal and a parking area a few blocks away, like the one behind the Old Fauntleroy Schoolhouse.
    • Help reduce the need for drive-on ferry service by improving multi-modal transportation links to move ferry riders efficiently to regional transit hubs, and to carpool and car share vehicles.
    • Incorporate opportunities for small business vendors at the terminal. Consider a micro farmers market (a few stalls that rotate daily) for Vashon Island or Kitsap farmers to bring their produce, meat, eggs, etc. Create space for a Tribal Enterprise, a barista coffee cart (“A Wake”), or a food truck space…
    • Replace beloved Cove Park (to the north of the dock) if needed for the new terminal. Relocate the Raven sculpture, bronze canoe, inscribed rocks, and paddling sculpture artwork to another area in the community. Instead of Cove Park’s concrete drive colored to represent a creek, protect and restore a real creek—creating a natural area at the mouth of Fauntleroy Creek (to the south of the dock). 
    • Create a nature walk with interpretive signs to educate the community about the importance of these natural riparian habitats where coho salmon spawn and many birds and mammals reside. Our growing urban population needs more open space. An urban wildlife area could provide a valuable connection to nature for those in the community without beachfront property.
    • Daylight the creek under Fauntleroy Way SW with a bridge or large box culvert. This would allow the street to be raised, reducing a low spot, and may improve climate resilience to give the creek more room during peak flow.

    3. REMEMBER OUR PAST: We believe Seattle and the State of Washington need to do more to recognize First Nations, including the Duwamish People, past and present. We are all on indigenous land. 3. REMEMBER OUR PAST that end,

    • Invite and commission Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot Tribes to shape the terminal design with environmental innovations and indigenous artwork. Feature contemporary indigenous artists throughout the facility and right-of-way. Construct a sculpture on the shoreline to mark this place and its history.
    • Invite and commission Duwamish, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot Tribes to design interpretive signs with messages to share history and inspire stewardship of our natural areas.
    • Look to the design and artwork at the new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal. While the scale of that building may be larger than what would be possible in Fauntleroy, the facility is stunning.  Indigenous artists contributed greatly to the Mukilteo project. 

    We hope WSF finds a way forward that balances transportation priorities, our neighbor’s interests, the ferry dock travelers’ needs, with those of our urban wildlife, and the endangered salmon and resident Orcas with whom we share Puget Sound.  We also hope to learn more from our West Seattle neighbors with technical expertise on the many issues surrounding this ferry terminal upgrade.

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