Dec. 29 will be both a pain and a celebration for riders on the Mukilteo-Clinton main Whidbey Island ferry route.
There will be no ferry service all day to prepare for the opening of the new Mukilteo terminal that evening. That day, there will be training aboard the boats and finishing touches made at the dock.
Sailings will start with the 5:35 p.m. departure from Clinton on the island. The 20-minute voyage will mark the official opening of a project that cost $187 million and has been decades in the making.
The four new toll booths in Mukilteo will open at 5 p.m. for riders hoping to catch the 6:10 p.m. boat — the first cruise from the new terminal.
There will be a line of cars. Count on it. Reservations are not available. Be patient. Don’t worry if you can’t get on the first one. Grab a snack from Ivar’s. Ferries run every 30 minutes.
Because of COVID-19, there will not be a grand celebration for the state system’s first new terminal in 40 years.
“It will be a soft opening,” said Ian Sterling, Washington State Ferries spokesman.
Walk-ons will board first. The overhead passenger ramp won’t be operational until February.
A walk-on ticket to ride from Mukilteo is $5.55, or $2.75 for seniors and those ages 6-18. Children 5 and under are free. Cost for a vehicle and driver is $9.90.
The existing terminal, on the other side of Ivar’s, was built in 1957, the same year game show host Vanna White was born. But it hasn’t aged as well and has not had significant improvements since the early 1980s. The route is one of the state’s busiest, with more than 4 million riders every year.
Mukilteo Mayor Jennifer Gregerson will be among the waterfront spectators on Dec. 29.
“I just want to be there and watch it come in and the first round of cars,” she said.
The terminal has been a focus of her seven years in the mayor’s office. There have been numerous delays and changes.
“This is the first step in reclaiming the eastern half of our waterfront. It’s the promenade that we’ve been dreaming about for years,” Gregerson said. “It will hopefully operate much better and reduce the bad impact of the ferry on our community and accentuate the good ones.”
The terminal is designed to resemble a Native American longhouse, with tribal artwork inside and on the toll booths.
While there isn’t long-term parking, there’s plenty of “kiss and go” space, where people can pull in and drop off, Sterling said. It’s a quick hop, short walk to the Sounder rail station and bus service.
During the hours of closure on Dec. 29, even emergency sailings will not be possible.
People who need to travel to or from Whidbey Island can drive north over the Deception Pass bridge or use the Edmonds-Kingston and Port Townsend-Coupeville ferry routes.
“We recognize this is a major disruption for some of our customers,” Amy Scarton, head of WSF, said in a news release. “We worked to balance the need of those who rely on this route to get to work with the need to open the new terminal by scheduling this move over a holiday break, when there are usually fewer commuters.”