By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
The Fauntleroy ferry-dock/terminal-replacement project is “where the Viaduct was in 2005,” suggested Washington State Ferries‘ David 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.