Sidney to pay for new toll booth

Plans for a new $126,000 building at the Anacortes Ferry terminal

The proposed new toll booth at the Anacortes Ferry Terminal is a two-storey

Sidney will be using $126,560 of its ferry terminal reserve fund to build a new toll booth at the Sidney/Anacortes Ferry Terminal but the final cost is not yet determined.

First, the Town will consult with neighbours of the facility on the north side of Ocean Avenue, First Street and Fifth Street to get their comments on the proposed project. Council, at their Aug. 12 regular meeting, voted to proceed with the planning stage of the new toll booth, including a final cost estimate for removing the current structure, preparing the site and building a new one.

Architectural plans already drawn up show a two-storey toll booth, clad mostly in metal to withstand the elements and to reduce maintenance costs. The new building will have three ticket windows available — including one for walk-on customers, another beneath a 12-foot canopy and a third on the north side that would be open to allow service to oversize vehicles.

Terminal manager Chris Olson says the new structure will provide optimal space for the facility and its staff, after years of working out of what is essentially a trailer.

“This building offers more options to serve customers,” he said. “And hopefully the neighbourhood likes it.”

The new structure would also have its own washroom and upper-level office, training and storage space.

Sidney is paying for the new building due to its long-term lease with Washington State Ferries (WSF) which operates the Anacortes Ferry between the Town and the United States. Under the lease, signed on Jan.1, 2012, the Town collects rent from WSF and places the money into a capital upgrades reserve fund. In the agreement, the Town is responsible for upgrading or replacing terminal structures and as they are replaced, they become property of the Town.

Currently, the Town owns the Canadian Border Services Agency and waiting room building. Flair Hospitality (terminal operator) owns the gift shop. WSF owns the toll booth, washrooms, U.S. Customs building and a security guard station.

The plan for the toll booth replacement is to do the construction during the ferry’s downtime between January and March, 2014. The plan is before council now to get the permits and contractors in place prior to that short window of opportunity.

While supportive of the project, Councillor Steve Price questioned whether the terminal has an overall master plan in place, outlining the future look and functionality of the property. Olson said there is no such document, but he is willing to work with the Town to create one.

“The Town hasn’t done a long-term assessment of the property,” Price said, asking if a new toll booth could be moved if the need arose.

Olson said no, as the new building would have a concrete base and walls sunk into the ground to prevent flooding.

In approving the new toll booth, Price added that a comprehensive plan be developed for the site to avoid building anything in a place it might not belong in the long-term.

“Having this plan will help council in its approvals process,” he said and the rest of council agreed, making the creation of a master plan a requirement (Mayor Larry Cross had excused himself from the discussion and vote, citing the fact that he lives right across the street from the terminal).

Anacortes Ferry traffic up in 2013

Chris Olson, manager of the Sidney/Anacortes Ferry terminal facility, says traffic is up this year and that’s good news.

“Traffic is up 15 per cent over last year,” he said, adding foot passenger traffic alone is up 30 per cent.

While traffic is still not to the levels seen prior to September 11, 2001, Olson said the year’s current traffic count of around 135,000 people indicates travel between Sidney and Washington State is on the rise.