The terminal will remain open throughout construction — although it will be significantly smaller — and there will be no reduction in sailings, Washington State Ferries has said.

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Construction at Seattle’s Colman Dock, which has been underway since August, is about to encroach ever further on ferry passengers, as work begins this week to tear down part of the 50-year-old terminal building.

Crews have begun walling off the northwest portion of the terminal building, closing or moving several food sellers, as they prepare to demolish nearly half of it this summer.

The work is part of a five-year, $350 million project to rebuild the dock and terminal, which are vulnerable to an earthquake. The project is funded by federal, state and local dollars, with King County pitching in funding for a new passenger-only ferry terminal.

The terminal will remain open throughout construction — although it will be significantly smaller — and there will be no reduction in sailings, Washington State Ferries has said.

The agency did change ferry schedules in January to accommodate the project. Ferries from Bainbridge Island and Bremerton are now staggered — so they don’t arrive at the same time and the smaller, temporary terminal doesn’t have to hold both groups of waiting passengers at once.

As this next phase of construction begins, the Bainbridge and Bremerton waiting areas will be combined onto the Bremerton side of the facility.

More than 9 million people pass through Colman Dock each year. It’s by far the busiest hub in the state ferries system.

The terminal building will continue to operate at its reduced size until summer 2019. At that point, part of the new terminal building will open and the current terminal will be fully torn down.

But the new terminal will still not even be half of its eventual size. The new terminal will then be completed on the site that the current terminal had occupied.

The complicated, staged construction, which is scheduled to last until 2023, is necessary to preserve current levels of ferry service.

“It’s a puzzle,” Broch Bender, a Washington State Ferries spokesman, said. “It’s a lot like doing construction in your house while you’re living in it.”

Crews will eventually replace about 2,000 wood piles, some of which have been in place since 1938, with 500 steel and concrete ones.

Since construction began in August, crews have driven in 167 steel piles on the south end of the dock, which will eventually support passenger-only ferries — the King County Water Taxi and the Kitsap Fast Ferry.

But pile driving recently came to a stop.

Crews can only do in-water work, like pile driving, between August and mid-February, the time of the year when migrating juvenile salmon are less likely to be present.

The crane-operated impact hammer used to drive the piles into the seafloor creates vibrations that can harm the salmon.

Last summer, lanes of Alaskan Way were repurposed for ferry access, to accommodate the loss of vehicle holding space on the south side of the dock.