State ferries will operate on a new schedule beginning in January, with the goal of easing congestion in the Colman Dock ferry terminal as renovation work begins there.
The Seattle terminal building will shrink to half and later a third of its current size during renovations, making it necessary for Washington State Ferries to tweak its current schedule.
“Space inside the building will be limited due to construction and won’t be large enough to accommodate full boats waiting for both routes,” said Broch Bender, of Washington State Ferries. “For that reason, we staggered the sailing schedule, so only one boat would leave at a time to make the most use of the space inside the terminal building.”
The new schedule will take effect Jan. 7, 2018, and run through at least the end of construction in 2023. No sailings will be canceled, but many will be shifted by 5 to 15 minutes under the new schedule. Bremerton boats will leave earlier than they do under the current schedule, while Bainbridge boats leave a few minutes later, both on weekday and weekend schedules.
In addition to staggering departure times, the schedule also ensures vessels don’t have to pass each other in narrow sections of Rich Passage and Eagle Harbor.
The agency was able to shift back a proposed 4:10 p.m. Bremerton-Seattle sailing that would have been too early to match up with quitting time for some Puget Sound Naval Shipyard workers. That sailing is now scheduled for 4:15 p.m.
Some commuters had requested a 5:45 p.m. sailing from Seattle to Bainbridge to be moved back to 5:30 p.m. to better accommodate childcare and evening schedules, but the agency was unable to make that work.
Bender said WSF will evaluate the schedule during the work period and consider changes as necessary.
By March 2018, half of the existing terminal building will be demolished and by summer 2019, it’ll be down to about a third of its current size, Bender said. A temporary wall will go up to isolate the renovations somewhat, but commuters can still expect some noise and dust when work gets rolling.
Bender said the current plan is for most of the vendors in the terminal to vacate by the end of February. Centerplate and Subway storefronts will remain open for longer, but they will also vacate after about a year, Bender said.
The work comes as part of a massive $350 million renovation effort that began at Colman Dock this summer. When the dust has settled in about five years, crews will have replaced aging and seismically vulnerable portions of the dock. Old timber pilings will be replaced by concrete and steel supports; new terminal, staff and entry buildings will go up; and a passenger-only ferry facility will be built on the southern edge of the dock.
For more information on the schedule changes, head to wsdot.wa.gov or go to one of three drop-in events in December where WSF staff will be available to answer questions. Staff will be available inside the Seattle terminal building from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 5, in the galleys of Bainbridge-Seattle sailings from 3:45 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. on Dec. 7, and in the galleys of Bremerton-Seattle sailings from 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 14.