New water taxi dock proposed

A West Seattle group proposes moving the Elliott Bay water taxi dock from Seacrest Park south about one-third mile because there's much more room for parking and the site is better protected from storms.

The Pier 1-Pier 2 Committee recommends the water taxi's pick-up and drop-off location be moved to Pier 2, southeast of Salty's on Alki.

The new floating dock would jut north-northeast into the bay next to Jack Block Park. Two vessels could dock simultaneously.

A ticketing pavilion and a covered waiting area could be built next to the dock. There's also room for several buses to maneuver to and from the passenger terminal. There could even be space for a bicycle storage facility.

Ferry passengers could use the existing restrooms at Jack Block Park.

Two parking lots just south of the dock could accommodate 500 cars, said Vlad Oustimovitch, volunteer project manager for the committee. Cars would enter the water taxi parking lots from Florida Street.

The parking lots even have enough capacity to provide some parking for people visiting Alki Beach, Oustimovitch said. They could leave their cars at the water taxi terminal and take a bus or shuttle bus to the beach.

The new dock could be built of lightweight metal to allow sunlight to illuminate the underwater travels of salmon and other migratory fish that swim near shore.

So far, the proposal remains only as "very, very conceptual ideas," Oustimovitch said.

The Pier 1-Pier 2 Committee is a volunteer group comprised of West Seattle residents, businesses and organizations. For many years, it's been studying and offering ideas about how best to use the first two piers east of Harbor Avenue. The committee received public funds and hired to hire a consultant firm named Weinstein Associates to conduct a feasibility study.

Moving the passenger-only ferry dock farther south on Harbor Avenue also will make it more accessible to people living in Delridge, Westwood, Ridgewood and the southern neighborhoods of West Seattle.

Moving the water taxi dock next to Jack Block Park would increase public awareness of the relatively unknown waterfront park, which is owned by the Port of Seattle.

"It would activate the park," Oustimovitch said.

The Pier 1-Pier 2 Committee also recommends changing the name of the water taxi to the West Seattle Mosquito. It would be a reference to the famed Puget Sound Mosquito Fleet, a large flotilla of privately owned ferryboats that carried paying passengers all over the region.

"West Seattle was the first place to demonstrate the viability of the water taxi," Oustimovitch said.

Many government agencies have been involved in discussions about the proposal including King County Metro, which operates the water taxi and the bus system. The Port of Seattle owns Pier 2 so it also has been in on discussions, as have State Sen. Erik Poulsen and King County Councilman Dow Constantine. The Muckleshoot Tribe is engaged, as are the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Some of the money to build and operate the facility could come from the recently created King County Ferry District, Oustimovitch said.

Meanwhile, King County Councilman Dow Constantine released figures last week showing ridership on the Elliott Bay water taxi is 27 percent higher this summer than in summer 2006. The vessel has carried more than 88,000 passengers so far this summer.

"The steady increase in ridership shows that the Elliott Bay water taxi has established itself as an important part of local transit service," Constantine said. "The water taxi will serve as an important alternate route into downtown Seattle, both during I-5 construction and during future work on the Alaskan Way Viaduct."

Tim St. Clair can be reached at 932-0300 or timstc@robinsonnews.com

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