New direct ferry may bypass Fauntleroy
A proposed new ferry route that would skip Fauntleroy and head straight downtown from Southworth could reduce traffic through West Seattle.
The new route is but one proposal in Washington State Ferries' 25-year plan for terminals and vessels, which was presented to Fauntleroy residents June 30 at the Hall at Fauntleroy. About 30 people attended.
The new route, which could be enacted in 2012, would relieve demand for ferry service from Southworth to downtown due to increasing development in Kitsap County, said Ray Deardorf, the ferry system's planning director. Particularly the south and central parts of Kitsap County are growing fast, he said.
A new Southworth-downtown route could benefit the Fauntleroy Ferry Terminal. Over the next 25 years, planners predict an 88 percent increase in vehicles heading westbound from Fauntleroy to Southworth and a 28 percent increase in vehicles going to Vashon Island.
However, the Fauntleroy terminal is nearly maxed out now and cannot be expanded. Several years ago, the Seattle City Council voted against future expansion of the Fauntleroy terminal.
Another positive aspect of such a route would be shorter travel time for Southworth passengers headed downtown, Deardorf said.
Meanwhile sailings from Vashon Island to Fauntleroy would continue in the future. Even though the island's population is expected to increase, it probably will grow at a slower clip than Kitsap County, Deardorf said. Besides, it would take longer for car ferries to sail from the island directly downtown than to go through Fauntleroy, he added.
Historically, about 70 percent of the traffic through Fauntleroy comes from Vashon, but that's expected to drop to 50 percent in the future, when approximately half of the traffic through Fauntleroy is expected to come from Southworth.
According to data from Washington State Ferries, a 64 percent increase in westbound ferry passengers is predicted by 2030. An accompanying 24 percent increase is anticipated in the number of vehicles aboard westbound ferries in the coming years.
The 25-year plan also recommends replacing the wooden Fauntleroy Terminal building at the end of the dock with a concrete structure in about eight years, Deardorf said.
People wondered if using larger ferryboats could alleviate some of the traffic backups at Fauntleroy, Deardorf said it takes longer to load and unload bigger vessels, which means large ferries make fewer sailings in one day.
Expansion of Colman Dock downtown is also part of the 25-year plan. Ferry planners are working on the assumption that more Southworth vehicles and passengers will be going straight to Colman Dock in the future, said Tim King, project manager of the Colman Dock expansion.
"Colman Dock will be one place to get access to downtown during construction of the Alaskan Way Viaduct," King said.
"Washington State Ferries has an impact on our community and on West Seattle," said Gary Dawson, a Fauntleroy resident who also sits on the Fauntleroy-Vashon-Southworth Ferry Advisory Committee. "It has to do with traffic through West Seattle."
The Washington Legislature appropriated enough money to continue limited passenger-only ferry service for two more years. Dawson and other members of the committee went to Olympia this past winter to ask legislators for more passenger-only ferries. However the future of passenger-only ferries is uncertain because legislators are in a philosophical battle over whether future passenger-only ferry service should be in public or private hands, Dawson said.
Money to build more passenger-only ferryboats and expand passenger-only service were taken away when voters throughout Washington approved Initiative 695 a few years ago.
A draft of the Washington State Ferries 25-year plan is scheduled to be released in September. After hearing public comments on the plan, appropriate changes will be made and the final version of the plan is set to be published in December.
Tim St. Clair can be contacted at email@example.com or 932-0300.