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 email@example.com.