Big changes coming to Seattle ferry terminal starting Wednesday

KOMO News file photo

SEATTLE - People who drive on or off a ferry in Seattle will see several changes beginning Wednesday as the construction zone to replace the state’s largest ferry terminal expands.

Both the Bainbridge Island and Bremerton vehicle holding lanes will move to new locations and shrink in size as available space at Colman Dock becomes more limited.

“There will be less and less room on the dock to hold waiting traffic, especially north of the terminal building where most of the demolition and construction will occur,” said construction engineer Bryant Bullamore.

He said the changes may be confusing at first - especially for motorists who regularly drive onto Colman Dock - but they are necessary so that the aging and seismically vulnerable terminal can be upgraded.

Ferry officials say drivers should watch for signs and follow ferry terminal crew directions at the toll plaza during the next several months, as available space for vehicle holding becomes even more limited later this fall and into 2019.

When the dock is full, all overflow vehicle traffic will be directed to wait in nearby holding lanes on Pier 48, a few blocks south of the terminal.

Starting Wednesday, the Bainbridge Island vehicle holding lanes will move to the south side of the terminal building where Bremerton vehicles currently wait and the Bremerton lanes will shift to the north side where Bainbridge vehicles currently wait. This swap will maximize remaining room on the dock and eliminate loading conflicts between destinations.

The Bainbridge Island waiting area south of the terminal building will hold up to 194 vehicles, only seven cars fewer than the vessels on that route. The Bremerton waiting area in the north will hold 110 vehicles, 30 fewer than vessels on that route. Vehicles from the off-site holding lanes will be loaded to finish filling the boat.

The slip where vessels pull in and push out for each destination will also swap to correspond with the new waiting locations. Bremerton-bound ferries will use Slip 3, the northernmost slip, and Bainbridge-bound ferries will use Slip 2, the center slip.

Slip 1, the southernmost slip, is currently undergoing reconstruction and not available for use.

In addition, all Bainbridge Island and Bremerton sailings will share a single open slip for one weekend in late October, and weekend sailing schedules for both routes will be adjusted to accommodate the shared slip.

Very few sailings will be canceled on that weekend, but departure times on sailings throughout the day will shift between five and 30 minutes on most sailings to and from Seattle. The adjusted schedule will be made available in early October.

Colman Dock is the state’s largest ferry terminal and supports transportation across Puget Sound between downtown Seattle and communities in Kitsap County and the Olympic Peninsula. More than 9 million people use the terminal each year, but it is aging and vulnerable to earthquake damage. Construction to replace the terminal began in August 2017 and will continue until 2023.

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