FAUNTLEROY FERRY TERMINAL: Two replacement alternatives remain; Cove Park spared

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The idea of widening the Fauntleroy ferry dock over the small public beach to its north that’s known as Cove Park is no longer under consideration.

That was the biggest news from last night’s meeting of the Community Advisory Group for Washington State Ferries‘ Fauntleroy dock/terminal-rebuild project, the group’s first meeting in four months.

WSF said the second level of screening had narrowed the options down to two – rebuilding the dock/terminal with its current footprint, or expanding it, mostly by building it out further over the water. Here’s how the meeting went:

WSF’s David Sowers opened with updates, including the barge now at Fauntleroy, performing repairs related to the M/V Cathlamet crash, as well as maintenance. He said WSF will “try to salvage some of the pilings that were not damaged” by the crash. After about a week of work now, the barge will be back in one to two months to “drive a new dolphin” (the dock structure that was hit in the crash).

Back to the terminal-replacement project – currently expected to be built mid-decade – WSF’s Hadley Rodero summarized the 477 community comments received over the summer.

(You can see a more detailed feedback summary here.) WSF’s Marsha Tolon summarized what stage of the process they’re in. She noted that the Good To Go study is under way. (More on that later.) They’re transitioning more from a planning phase to an environmental-review process. Here’s how they screened what would move on for continued consideration:

Here’s a recap of what made it into the second level of screening:

4 alternatives have since been screened out, said WSB’s Mark Bandy – basically the ones that proposed some form of increased off-dock holding, either an extra lane on Fauntleroy Way, an extra line south of the dock on Wildwood, or two other proposals for remote holding areas. Tolon then showed the two alternatives they’re basically down to, consolidating the options that remained – either same-size dock with Good To Go and/or advance ticketing, or an expanded dock that would mostly add capacity via length rather than width.

DISCUSSION: CAG members then were invited to share their thoughts. Scott Harvey said he was glad the widening option was dropped. Why couldn’t Good To Go be studied also as part of expanded-size replacement rather than just studying it as part of same-size replacement? Bandy said that if G2G “proved viable” they’d consider it; Sowers said something like that would be more necessary if the dock wasn’t being expanded. What about an extra level on the dock rather than stretching it out further? Harvey asked. That might be out of their cost range, Sowers said.

Asked Victoria Nelson, what are the projections regarding future vehicle traffic – those would seem to be a major factor in evaluating whether a dock expansion is necessary. Rodero said the dock is going to continue to be served by three 124-car ferries, and that’s what they have to plan to handle.

Mardi Clements suggested that even without the remote holding, a “distant toll booth” should still be considered. She’s happy that Cove Park will be spared no matter what. It’s even an attribute for ferry users, she noted, as a spot of respite during long waits.

Susan Frith said the bigger dock would be a cleaner option for discouraging some of the dangerous driver behavior that happens in on-road ferry holding.

Frank Immel said the ticketing bottleneck is a “four-hour-a-day problem,” so “to change an entire structure” just to fix a four-hour problem seems like overkill. Educating ferry users – about the currently available ticketing options for example – is underused and underrated, he said. Better signage would help toward that end. He also asked when cost will be considered in the screening process. Sowers acknowledged they haven’t done a cost analysis yet – the original budget, almost $100 million, was estimated to cover the 186-car dock that would meet WSF standards for holding one and a half vessels’ worth of traffic (something the current 80-car-capacity dock falls far short of).

Gregory McKinnon said ticketing isn’t the problem, a full dock is. Adding 40 more cars of capacity would get 40 cars off the street. He said the Vashon side is often overloaded and that poses a problem for Southworth users.

Could a Water Taxi slip be added to Fauntleroy so a smaller foot ferry could use it too? Not part of the plan, Sowers said. What about a second slip? Not currently being discussed – the dock space would still be a limiting issue. How far would an extended dock go out into the Sound? Existing is 558′ – 124-car capacity (one boat’s worth) would be another 220′ – 186 cars, not designed yet, would likely be close to that, with the addition of some “selective widening” (but, WSF reiterated, not over Cove Park). They expect to have a refined version of that in the next meeting or two. There’s a lot to consider, WSF’s Doug Playter said – an HOV lane, a motorcycle lane, etc.

Another question: Any consideration of signalization where the dock meets Fauntleroy Way SW? Sowers said they’ve talked about safety “a lot” with SDOT and improving the flow in some way could certainly be part of the project.

Once the discussion of the two alternatives ended, there was a little more detail about the upcoming study:

GOOD TO GO/TICKETING STUDY: The consultant contract was just finalized and it’ll start soon, lasting about 7 months. WSF’s Charles Torres said they’ll be looking to see what it would take to implement Good To Go at the rebuilt terminal – the technology currently used for tolls – while maintaining the current Fauntleroy dock size. Here’s what they’ll be looking at:

The fact that all riders 18 and under will be free starting October 1st may make things a little less complicated, it was noted. The study starts at Fauntleroy but they hope it will “get legs throughout the system.”

NEXT MEETINGS: Probably two more before year’s end, Rodero said. The project’s Technical Advisory Group meets online at 1 pm next Wednesday (September 28th); information on attending that meeting is here. If you want to comment on the project, you can email fauntleroytermproj@wsdot.wa.gov.

20 Replies to "FAUNTLEROY FERRY TERMINAL: Two replacement alternatives remain; Cove Park spared"

  • hj September 22, 2022 (10:37 pm)

    Educating ferry users – about the currently available ticketing options for example – is underused and underrated, he said.

    I strongly agree with that. The fact that there’s no signage whatsoever until you get to the booth is crazy, and even there the lack of explanation of other options is unbelievable. Take any toll road in the Seattle area and you see all this signage about different payment options for miles before you actually hit the toll area. For the ferry, there is literally no advertisement of any payment options.When I started taking the ferry regularly, I had to randomly notice people handing cards to the booth operators and wonder “huh, what is that?” And then I had to go do my own research and discover that Wave2Go is a thing. Why isn’t there obvious signage about that, like nearly every other modern system? It’s just so weird.

    • KM September 23, 2022 (4:53 pm)

      This is such a great point! I’ve always been surprised a the lack of information available when approaching the ferry terminal (minus the parking guidelines).

  • Jim September 22, 2022 (11:46 pm)

    It’s ironically humorous to watch these people run around in circles with horrible ideas. The only good one I’ve seen is extending out the dock and I don’t know why there hasn’t been more discussion of adding a second slip. That would solve most of the problems if they could get more cars loaded onto the boats and we could accommodate multiple boats at once without one having to wait when the other is running behind.

    • Ivan Weiss September 23, 2022 (4:13 am)

      A second slip would be utterly worthless, and would address a problem that exists only rarely. That’s why there hasn’t been more discussion of it.

      • Anne Higuera September 23, 2022 (6:48 pm)

        @ivan It’s not rare at all. Even with a 2-boat schedule, there is consistently a boat idling in the sound waiting for the boat at the WSea dock to unload during the morning and late afternoon sailings. Being able to load and unload concurrently might make it possible for the boats to run on time, which is one of the key metrics WSF needs to satisfy. With a 3-boat schedule it’s an even more frequent issue.

  • MrB September 23, 2022 (12:20 pm)

    Here’s an idea, build a bridge to Vashon.  No more Ferry’s.  

    • John September 23, 2022 (3:29 pm)

      That’s a good joke! Not only would it massively disrupt shipping traffic and other marine traffic but it wouldn’t be safe with how rough the current can get to do a floating bridge and it’s far too deep to do a conventional bridge.

    • Hammer in Hand September 23, 2022 (7:00 pm)

      The bridge option has been floated over the yearsit is not that it cannot be build without disrupting shipping traffic.  Vashon island and it residents would never,ever allow it…. NEVER

      • Joe Z September 23, 2022 (8:49 pm)

        Three words: Immersed. Tube. Tunnel.

        • Ron Swanson September 24, 2022 (12:10 pm)

          It’s 600 feet deep in the middle of the channel, immersed tube isn’t feasible – the approaches would be mile long underground spirals.

  • Kyle September 23, 2022 (2:19 pm)

    Would it cost more to expand the pier over the water than to expand it into cove park? Seems like that should have factored into the analysis.

  • No longer Stuck in West Seattle September 23, 2022 (4:44 pm)

    Shame when they remodeled Harbor Island they didn’t consider putting a ferry dock there. It to me would be a much better location and would I think be a big improvement for the people impacted on the west seattle side. Wouldn’t do much for Vashon folk though cheaper living is part of the deal for their inconvenience. Also disclaimer i am not an engineer or in the know on the ins and outs of the ferry. Just seems like a logical idea to me so don’t kill me in the comments if there is an obvious reason that could not work I am totally unaware of….

  • Admiral September 23, 2022 (8:22 pm)

    Why they aren’t considering a water taxi slip is beyond me. Bring back the mosquito fleet! If they are piloting Des Moines why not build out more possible locations to expand fast foot ferries

    • Jon Wright September 24, 2022 (9:58 am)

      Because a water taxi slip at Fauntleroy would serve absolutely no useful purpose.

      • Oh Seattle September 24, 2022 (1:39 pm)

        There’s a C line bus stop about 500 feet from the ferry (according to the map I’m looking at).  Of course, with the Metro staffing shortages it might not be very reliable to get the rest of the way to your destination.

  • Jay September 23, 2022 (8:25 pm)

    Is there a history of Cove Park being an actual park or is it just something that people are using to block the project because they don’t want construction in their neighborhood?

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