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Colman upgrade in works

A ferry system model shows what Colman Dock might look like after $225 million worth of improvements. Planners are considering including outside developers to bring in additional non-farebox revenue, but specific plans are undetermined.  - Courtesy of Washington State Ferries
A ferry system model shows what Colman Dock might look like after $225 million worth of improvements. Planners are considering including outside developers to bring in additional non-farebox revenue, but specific plans are undetermined.
— image credit: Courtesy of Washington State Ferries

Extensive changes to the Seattle terminal would dovetail with Winslow plans.

Ten years, $385 million and a sheet of saltwater are all that separate Bainbridge Islanders from their future commute.

As plans continue to take shape for $160 million worth of improvements at the Bain­bridge terminal, Wash­ington State Ferries announced plans last week for $225 million in upgrades at Seattle’s Colman Dock.

Kevin Dwyer, who is part of the 12-member community advisory group for the Bainbridge Island terminal, said both terminals deserve facelifts.

“They made some good improvements,” Dwyer said of a $1.9 million renovation across the water in 2004 that introduced a food court and other amenities.

“It certainly looks a lot more like a major metropolitan terminal, but there are still things that could be done to make it better,” he said. “I know I’ve heard some people complain that some of the restroom facilities are a bit antiquated.”

Dwyer also said the current turnstiles make it difficult for people with large baggage.

But the main concern now is expanding to meet the massive increase in use.

The number of walk-on passengers at Colman Dock is projected to triple over the next 25 years. Vehicle traffic is expected to grow by 40 percent during the same period.

The ferry system is beginning work on an Environmental Impact Statement, which could take two years to finish. Construction at Colman Dock is scheduled to begin in early 2011, to be completed in 2016.

Construction at the Bainbridge Island Ferry Terminal could begin as early as 2009.

While work on both facilities could occur simultaneously, WSF spokesperson Hadley Greene said she didn’t anticipate delays for commuters.

“My hope is that it won’t impact travel time on the run,” she said.

“The goal is to keep the transportation link operating throughout by phasing the project, but the specifics are still being worked out.”

Included in the Colman Dock project will be a new terminal, a larger vehicle holding area and new dock structures to replace the old, deteriorating ones.

An underwater inspection conducted by the ferry system in 2002 found damage to nearly half of the timber piles and trestles at the dock.

Pedestrian access to transit and downtown Seattle is also a top priority. During rush hour, the current Marion Street pedestrian bridge is flooded by some 600 eastbound foot passengers during a 5-minute period.

As a result, westbound passengers must either walk against the current, or navigate lesser travelled streets that lack adequate sidewalks and lighting.

Transit connections are also a concern; only two bus routes and the waterfront trolly stop at Colman Dock.

One reason for the huge increase in walk-on passengers is rising car and driver fares, which have increased almost 40 percent over the past five years.

As a result, the ferry system is considering partnering with outside developers to bring in additional non-farebox revenue, with a hotel or condominiums among the possible additions to the facility being discussed.

Still, Greene said there is no guarantee that fares won’t continue to rise.

“Any additional revenue would go into the operating budget,” she said. “But we haven’t determined yet how the money would be used.”

Like the Bainbridge terminal, which will be integrated with Winslow Tomorrow and the city’s Comprehensive Plan, the Colman Dock project will be coordinated with the new Alaskan Way Viaduct and Seawall project.

In the meantime, crowd-fighting commuters can dream about the future.

“Fortunately I don’t have to commute for work,” Dwyer said. “I know it can get pretty crazy over there.”

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