Washington State Ferries has opened its new terminal in Mukilteo with Native-inspired architecture and interior artwork, energy-efficient and seismically sound building design and safer entries for passengers.

The new, $187 million facility for the second busiest state ferry route (before the pandemic) replaces the previous terminal and dock that was built in 1957 and was vulnerable to earthquakes. Completion of the Mukilteo station makes it Washington’s first new ferry terminal to open in 40 years.

It opened for public use Tuesday at 5:50 p.m. A virtual ribbon-cutting was held online due to COVID-19 safety restrictions.

Traffic Lab is a Seattle Times project that digs into the region’s thorny transportation issues, spotlights promising approaches to easing gridlock, and helps readers find the best ways to get around. It is funded with the help of community sponsors Madrona Venture Group and PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company. Seattle Times editors and reporters operate independently of our funders and maintain editorial control over Traffic Lab content.

“This project represents everything that matters to Washingtonians,” said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, in the video. “The largest ferry system in the country has a new facility we can all be proud of. And as we recover from COVID-19, it is a symbol for the bright future we’re building here in Washington state.”

A marked bicycle lane feeds directly into the multimodal terminal, and a bus stop for Everett Transit and Community Transit has been moved closer to the entryway so transit riders can more easily access ferry service. A Sounder train station is also within close distance.

Advertising

Pedestrians can walk along a separated sidewalk, next to Puget Sound waters, and take stairs or an escalator up to the waiting area, where passengers board and depart the ferry.


Along the sidewalk and inside the terminal, signs provide passengers with more information about the tribal history of the land, including one that reads:

“More than a thousand years ago, this area was an immense beach where it’s believed the Snohomish people had a year-round village near the land spit and adjoining salt marsh that is now Mukilteo. During warm weather, tribal people followed the game and fish runs and gathered on the beach to trade goods and socialize. They passed along their legends and stories by campfire at night in the longhouse — stories that endure today.”

Charlie Torres, the Washington State Ferries project manager, said in the video that the agency worked with the tribes to reflect their culture in the construction of the terminal.

The building itself, designed by LMN Architects and overseen by the structural engineering firm KPFF Consulting Engineers, was created to mimic a longhouse, which serves as a gathering place in tribal communities for ceremonies, celebrations and storytelling. The walls are constructed of cedar planks; a shed-roof covers the top and wide floor-to-ceiling windows allow guests sprawling views of Puget Sound.

Those windows open to let the cool marine air in while large ceiling fans circulate so that the terminal’s effect on the Earth will be lighter, a request from the city of Mukilteo and local tribes. Designers also added solar panels to the shed roof, along with other energy-efficient features.

Advertising

Native artists from the Tulalip and Suquamish tribes crafted culturally symbolic images and carvings of salmon, orcas, eagles and crabs that are on display around and inside the terminal.

Tulalip master carver Joe Gobin carved two figures on the walls: a cedar spindle whorl and a cedar canoe that hangs from the ceiling. Canoes are the traditional mode of transportation for coastal Native people, and the waterways have been their trading routes.

“The artwork you see around the facility is a representation of our people. The canoe that’s hanging in the terminal is a representation of the canoes we used in the Salish Sea for thousands of years,” he said.

The new terminal is larger than the previous facility at 30 feet wide and 100 feet long, and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. It can better protect against sea-level rise and structural and seismic vulnerabilities, said David Sowers, Washington State Ferries director of terminal engineering.

Walk-on passengers will board ferries on the ground level through the car deck until February, when a new overhead pedestrian structure is scheduled to open. Because both drivers and walk-on passengers will be able to enter at the same time, the boarding process will be faster.