WSDOT Earthquake-Proofs Ferry Terminal

Thu September 04, 2014 - West Edition
Lori Lovely

Washington DOT?Photo
The majority of the terminals serving the central Puget Sound were built in the 1950s and 1960s, long before seismic, electrical, and other building codes were adopted. Additionally, the terminal facilities were built to address a no
Washington DOT?Photo The majority of the terminals serving the central Puget Sound were built in the 1950s and 1960s, long before seismic, electrical, and other building codes were adopted. Additionally, the terminal facilities were built to address a no
Washington DOT?Photo
The majority of the terminals serving the central Puget Sound were built in the 1950s and 1960s, long before seismic, electrical, and other building codes were adopted. Additionally, the terminal facilities were built to address a no PCH Construction Photo

This project will improve safety during an earthquake by retrofitting the building to current design codes. Washington DOT?Photo
The terminal has remained open during construction, but keeping it open and fully functional during construction has been the crew’s biggest challenge. Washington DOT?Photo
Using trucks, an excavator with a concrete demo attachment, dump trucks, concrete saws and a boom truck, an average of 10 to 15 workers will perform demolition and seismic and electrical upgrades; remodel the restroom and the staff a


One of the treasured memories many Washington state tourists fondly recall is the 35-minute ferry boat ride across Puget Sound to Bainbridge Island, where they can bicycle or wander amongst shops, art galleries, wineries, restaurants and a public garden. Referred to by the locals as “the boat,” it — along with Washington’s other ferries — is the most popular tourist attraction in the state.

Terminal Repair

To ensure that future tourists can share the recollections of crossing the Sound by ferry and enjoying the island, Washington State Ferries is retrofitting the Bainbridge Island ferry terminal building to enhance earthquake safety, upgrade the public restrooms and replace many aging building components.

Built in 1955, the existing terminal building does not meet current seismic design codes, other building codes or energy efficiency guidelines, according to Hadley Rodero, Washington State Department of Transportation ferries division communications. “The public restrooms are inadequate and do not meet American Disabilities Act guidelines. The exterior walls of the terminal building will be stronger.”

The Washington State Legislature identified this as an important project due to the age of the building and its seismic instability. With federal funds totaling $1.69 million and state funds of $3 million, for a total budget of $4.7 million, it was let for bids in August 2013. The contract was awarded to PHC Construction of Bainbridge Island in November 2013 and work began in January this year. The project is expected to be complete by September 2014.

This project will improve safety during an earthquake by retrofitting the building to current design codes, Rodero said. “The main public restrooms will be enlarged to provide more capacity and meet design codes and ADA guidelines. The new roof will eliminate leaks. The new electrical panel will increase reliability and reduce maintenance on the panel, as well as allow a potential vendor to lease space inside the building. The overall energy efficiency of the building will increase with more efficient lighting and windows.”

After work is completed, she said visitors will notice the following:

• The public restrooms will be larger, in a new location and meet current codes.

• The inside tollbooths will be demolished, improving passenger flow through the building.

• Space will be created inside the building for the WSF vendor Commuter Comforts presently operating outside.

• The building will have all-new exterior windows and sliding doors, a new roof, a new electrical panel, new light fixtures and a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning unit.

A Work in Progress

In addition to general contractor PHC Construction, Rodero said there are more than 30 subcontractors on the project, including local company Beacon Electric of Silverdale, Wash.

Using trucks, an excavator with a concrete demo attachment, dump trucks, concrete saws and a boom truck, an average of 10 to 15 workers will perform demolition and seismic and electrical upgrades; remodel the restroom and the staff area; and complete energy upgrades including replacing windows, painting the interior and exterior facilities, replacing the roof membrane, cutting concrete, remediating asbestos and replacing the heat pump in the terminal supervisor building.

Rodero said that this project was the first on which WSF has used shotcrete as a structural concrete solution as an alternative to the cast in place method. Shotcrete is concrete that is conveyed through a hose and pneumatically projected at high velocity onto a surface, as a construction technique. The benefit comes from the fact that it undergoes placement and compaction at the same time, due to the force with which it is projected from the nozzle. It can be impacted onto any type or shape of surface, including vertical or overhead areas. It is sometimes used in stabilizing applications.

Open for Business

The terminal has remained open during construction, but Rodero said keeping it open and fully functional during construction has been the crew’s biggest challenge. “As PHC became familiar with the terminal’s operational needs, they streamlined their schedule and phased construction activity to maintain progress, while keeping the terminal open and functional,” she said, adding that this reduced the total project completion time by about six weeks, enabling it to stay on schedule.

“The PHC management team developed a collaborative relationship with construction administrative and ferry operational staff,” Rodero continued. WSF created a similar relationship with residents and commuters. “[We] highlighted this topic at a December 2013 community meeting on Bainbridge Island,” she notes. Following that, a project-specific public meeting was held in January 2014 to share information about construction.

In addition, WSF uses a project Web site to share information with the public that includes updates about detours for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians.

“The public and ferry customers were most interested in pedestrian routing during construction,” Rodero said. However, she said that everyone involved with the project has been pleasantly surprised by “how well Bainbridge Island ferry riders have adapted to the minor service changes as a result of this work.”

The adaptive ferry customers can look forward to uninhibited access after the work is completed in September.

Island history

Bainbridge Island was named by U.S. Navy Lieutenant Charles Wilkes, who commanded a Navy survey team in 1841, in honor of Commodore William Bainbridge, commander of the frigate U.S.S. Constitution during the War of 1812.

In the early years there were several towns on the island, which boasted a thriving economy based on the logging and ship-building industries, due to large and accessible cedars, which were especially in demand for ships’ masts. By 1900, the island had a shipyard and a large wood preservative plant.

Because Bainbridge was home to many Japanese farmers at the start of World War II, the island was affected by the internment order of 1942. During World War II, Japanese-American residents of Bainbridge Island were the first to be sent to internment camps, an event commemorated by the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial, which opened in 2011 on the Winslow waterfront in memory of the 227 island residents who were held in the camps by the U.S. government through the duration of the war for fear of espionage.

Now an increasingly affluent bedroom community of Seattle, Bainbridge Island limits development to the area of Winslow, leaving the rest of the island rural in an effort to preserve green space. This is reflected in the presence of big houses along the shorelines, with condos and other dense development relegated to the town.