Lobbying for the Alaska Marine Highway System On September 7, 1988, after significant lobbying, the Alaska Marine Highway System announced Bellingham as its new southern terminus. The port began construction of the Bellingham Cruise Terminal at the former location of the massive infrastructure and PAF main dock.
The headline of the Bellingham Herald’s October 3, 1989, edition proclaimed, “It’s here: Alaska ferry docks. Port hopes ship will anchor continued economic boom…First-time arrival launches week of Fairhaven festivities.” Lobbying for the ferry had begun as early as December of 1963, with a Bellingham delegation of representatives from city agencies, the Chamber of Commerce, and the port traveling northward. The dock was held for future lobbying efforts for the Alaska Marine Highway System in 1986. In what was called a “futile effort," Bellingham took the prize with a solid proposal and over a dozen representatives, outnumbering Seattle’s five and Tacoma’s six. Though widely supported for its potential influx of visitor dollars from Alaska, some worried about the traffic impact on Fairhaven. Others feared the project was too expensive for the amount of growth it would bring.
Opening of the Cruise Terminal On October 3, 1989, culminating a $10.3 million project three years in the making, the Port of Bellingham opened the Bellingham Cruise Terminal with weekly sailings to Ketchikan, Alaska. That morning, more than 1,000 members of the community came out to see the 9:30 arrival of the 418-foot M/V Columbia at the terminal’s inauguration. Greeted by a flotilla of boats, a plane with a welcome banner, two Alaskan dance troupes, and the high school band, it was clear that the new Alaskan ferry was seen as a major victory for the Bellingham community.
Multimodal Transportation In 1995, the port converted the old Pacific American Fisheries (PAF) office headquarters into Bellingham’s first multimodal transportation facility, linking the Bellingham Cruise Terminal with a new Amtrak, Greyhound, and public transit station.
As a finishing touch, Fairhaven has been linked to all parts of Bellingham Bay by walking and biking trail systems extending from Marine Park at the foot of Fairhaven’s Harris Avenue to the Taylor Street Boardwalk, Boulevard Park, and into Downtown Bellingham as part of the City of Bellingham’s greenway programs. These trails and the multiple transportation options have revived Fairhaven in a way not seen since the 1890s.