New Seattle ferry terminal could spell trouble for passengers

SEATTLE -- The state says its needs a new ferry terminal in Seattle, but their plan could mean trouble for passenger-only service.

The foot ferries running from Pier 50 are the cheapest, fastest way from Seattle to Vashon Island or West Seattle. And passengers probably don't realize it, but the state runs only the big ferries.

"We are no longer in the passenger only service business. At the direction of the legislature, we don't do passenger only service," said state ferries director David Moseley.

That piece of information is important for all the people who ride the foot ferries now or who dream of service to Port Orchard or even Port Townsend.

Here's the problem: the state-owned Coleman dock is old. So old, that FDR was president when the pilings were laid. So the state has a replacement plan.

"They've come out with a plan that they consider their final plan that does not have a passenger only ferry dock in it," said Joe McDermott of the King County Ferry System.

The Ferry system says that's right. They've got to tear down the terminal and replace pilings under the loading areas.

King County officials say that's not good enough.

"Right now the King County Ferry District runs over 30,000 people a month through Colman dock and without that facility we would be running a full environmental impact study, an EIS, with money we don't have," McDermott said.

But the state says it has no choice and the work must be done.

"This is a safety and preservation work that must occur so we can serve the 8.5 million customers who come through here every year," Moseley said.

So how definite is all this? An excerpt from the ferry website says the plan "requires removing pier 50 currently used by passenger only ferries."

The first public hearing on the state plan set for Thursday.

Locals say they'll lobby for changes. The state says if there is a passenger only dock, local government will have to pay for it because, but law, the state cannot.