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March 28, 2022

National Finalist: Gold Award

Photo from ACEC
The new ferry terminal at Mukilteo is the centerpiece of a modern multi-modal transportation hub.


Project: Mukilteo Multimodal Ferry Terminal

Client: WSDOT Ferries Division

The ferry terminal in downtown Mukilteo negatively impacted the city’s small downtown core and its waterfront for decades. Cars waiting for the ferry to travel the popular Whidbey Island route frequently overflowed the large holding lot and spilled up through town, blocking local access to businesses and the popular beach park.

With a new light rail station built a short distance to the north, it was time to relocate the existing Mukilteo Ferry Terminal to connect ferry, vehicle, train, bus, bike and pedestrian transportation. The new terminal improves user safety and will accommodate the significant ridership increases forecasted for the route and surrounding communities. Relocating the ferry terminal also supports the city of Mukilteo’s downtown waterfront master plan.

The new Mukilteo Ferry Terminal — Washington State Ferry’s first new terminal in 40 years — was designed to be “light on the earth” and honor the site’s sensitive environment and cultural significance to the Native American peoples of the Salish Sea.

Cultural stewardship of the surrounding land was paramount. KPFF engaged local tribes throughout the design process. Native American longhouses historically used by the region’s Coast Salish tribes inspired the design featuring exposed timbers that simulate traditional cedar logs. Designed to LEED Gold standards, the building features a photovoltaic system, rainwater harvesting, efficient heat pumps and natural ventilation. Native American artists created the cultural artwork distributed throughout the site. Plants significant to local Native cultures enhance the landscaping with signs identifying the plants in English and the Lushootseed language spoken among the Salish Sea peoples.

Permeable concrete paving used in conjunction with engineered substrates for the vehicle holding lanes treats stormwater runoff that could include oil, fuel, and other pollutants likely to come for vehicles waiting for the ferry. This innovative use of materials was the first of this type for the state ferry system. Lessons learned on this project will improve the performance of the technology to apply more broadly across the ferry system’s 19 other terminals in future upgrades.

In the surrounding area, upland work included an extension of state Route 525, a new local street, transit center, utilities, landscaping, and innovative “enhanced stormwater treatment” consisting of bioretention facilities, modular wetlands, and pervious pavement/sand filtration. Portions of the site were raised 7 feet to reduce coastal flooding, sea-level rise, and contaminated soil risks. In-water marine work included a movable vehicle transfer span, overhead passenger boarding bridge, cab, apron, ferry berthing structures, shoreline stabilization, and an ADA-accessible fishing pier.

Because the building foundation is essentially a pile-supported wharf and serves as a vehicle bridge, engineers at KPFF designed it to meet the client and code seismic requirements. The structural design team implemented innovative concrete-filled steel tubes using recent research conducted at the University of Washington to control foundation displacements and protect lives.

Our region leads the nation in developing and understanding the potential ramifications of sea-level rise because of several local climate change groups and university researchers. State and local municipal leaders are ahead of the curve and require facilities to be designed for potential changes in sea level in the decades ahead. The new terminal site design can accommodate a projected rise in sea level of 13 inches and approximately 6 inches with slight modifications to the in-water ferry berthing structures. KPFF’s new design protects the facility from coastal flooding that results from a high-tide event combined with a high-wind event, which has previously caused damage at the site. In addition, the project coastal engineer evaluated the shoreline to identify and, where necessary, improve the riprap revetment that minimizes the potential of coastal erosion.

By listening carefully to the tribes and other key stakeholders, the KPFF design team identified various challenging design goals that required collaboration and interdisciplinary thinking to meet. This integrated effort by the designers, architects, engineers, contractors, and operators resulted in a project that goes beyond simply being a functional transportation facility to being an integrated and valuable asset to the community, enhancing the experience of users and neighbors through the incorporation of artwork, landscaping and signage.

Relocating and building the new transportation hub and ferry terminal provided many benefits for travelers and the public. Everyone can now enjoy the new pedestrian waterfront promenade, including a new fishing pier and recreational boating facility, access the waterfront and views of the Olympic Mountains and Whidbey Island, and a connection to a mile-long trail to two popular local parks.

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