Rough waters ahead: Repair work for dilapidated ferry ramps face delays, cost increase

A San Francisco ferry terminal used by Golden Gate Ferry passengers is dilapidated and badly in need of repair — which was already budgeted and pledged by the Golden Gate Bridge Highway and Transportation District.

But those repairs are now delayed and facing a cost increase of $3.3 million after Sausalito neighbors complained about repairs to a ferry facility in their town.

The projects are linked, meaning Sausalito’s delays are, by extension, San Francisco’s as well, according to the Golden Gate Bridge district.

The bridge district’s Board of Directors voted Friday to approve the additional $3.3 million for conceptual designs, environmental studies and engineering services for ferry terminal facilities in San Francisco, Larkspur and Sausalito.

“These facilities are 40 years in service and need almost immediate help so we can keep operating service,” said Ewa Bauer, chief engineer of the Golden Gate Bridge district, to a board committee Thursday.

With the new funding approval, the Ferry Ramps and Gangways Project total may cost $11.7 million, which is intended to help smoothly board increasingly crushed crowds onto the Golden Gate Ferry.

Additional money to cover delays to Larkspur’s terminal may also soon be requested, Bauer said.

The revitalization of the more than 150-foot-long hydraulic ramps and gangways at the San Francisco Ferry Building, as well as in Sausalito and Larkspur, would also smooth boarding for wheelchair users under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But all was not smooth sailing. Denis Mulligan, executive director of the Golden Gate Bridge district, said in 2015 Sausalito neighbors complained the new gangways had elements that were too tall. Neighbors also said its size was out of character with the small town.

So the district opted to work with neighbors on a redesign.

“To build consensus takes time,” Mulligan told the San Francisco Examiner. “We didn’t want to be the big, bad agency and steamroll them.”

That cooperation was not without consequence. “The prolonged reviews of the Sausalito terminal design have resulted in delays to project development for all three facilities and additional costs associated with the delays,” reads a Golden Gate Bridge district staff report.

And the district may need to throw its older work out the window.

Even though environmental studies, technical reports and “regulatory agency consultations” for San Francisco’s terminal were completed long ago, staff wrote, and due to “the passage of time” they must now be re-evaluated.

In September the city of Sausalito sued the Golden Gate Bridge district, asserting the district needs written consent on a new project to proceed, which the district contested.

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