A passenger-only ferry between South Whidbey and Everett is one of nine possible routes being considered in a feasibility study by a state planning organization.
The Puget Sound Regional Council, which makes decisions about transportation, growth management and economic development, began a study at the beginning of 2020.
The panel is examining a total of 45 routes for possible passenger-only ferry service.
The council also conducted a survey and received over 10,000 responses, which helped guide the choosing of the routes.
Program Manager Gil Cerise said the council has the budget to study only eight routes further.
For the eighth option, the council will decide between a South Whidbey/Everett route and a Suquamish/Seattle route .
“We think there’s commuter and non-commuter potential in that route,” Cerise said of the South Whidbey/Everett route.
He added that the area might not have the population density to support a passenger-only ferry compared to other regions where commuter demand is higher, such as around Seattle.
Island County Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said the possibility of a passenger ferry would be an environmentally and commuter-friendly option.
“We could reduce the number of cars needing to go across the ferry if we had a passenger connection to Everett,” she said.
The Langley Harbor or the Clinton dock facility near the Washington State Ferry terminal were two possible locations discussed for the boat to dock on the South Whidbey side.
Both locations are owned by the Port of South Whidbey.
“There wouldn’t need to be a new facility built on Whidbey, which I think is also the reason why it’s a viable option here,” Price Johnson said.
Price Johnson suggested the Port of Everett might partner with the passenger ferry to provide a place for it to stop on the mainland.
Both Cerise and Price Johnson pointed out that the study moving forward is not a guarantee that the route will be built.
That process will take many years beyond 2020.
“We’re not implementing the service, we’re just planning,” Cerise said.
“It’s just a concept,” Price Johnson agreed. “We’re grateful to have the study to put some pieces together to see if it’s feasible.”
Cerise added that by the end of this week, the planning organization may have made its decision between the South Whidbey/Everett and Suquamish/Seattle routes, which are both currently listed as “alternates” on the council’s website.
Cerise explained that the next steps would involve studying the route further and creating a “profile,” which would include details such as exact location of the terminal and information about the boats and how fast they would go.
He said the study needs to be submitted to the Legislature by January 2021.
• For more information, visit psrc.org/passenger-ferry-study.
This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sister publication to The Herald.