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Fast ferry service from Tacoma to Seattle might be possible, study says

Could fast ferry service work in Tacoma?

Kitsap Transit's fast ferry from Bremerton to Seattle inspired a feasibility study for a similar service in Tacoma.
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Kitsap Transit's fast ferry from Bremerton to Seattle inspired a feasibility study for a similar service in Tacoma.

Remember when Bremerton got its fast ferry service and commuters in Tacoma decided they wanted it, too?

A study for the City Council looking at just that was released Tuesday. The results are intriguing, and put the start-up costs at $40.5 million to $53 million.

“Initial indications are that passenger-only ferry service between Tacoma and Seattle is feasible,” City Councilman Ryan Mello, who called for the study in 2017, said in a news release with the report.

The report — written with the Port of Tacoma and Pierce Transit — envisions traveling to Seattle from Tacoma in under an hour on the water with one-way fares of about $11.

Average weekday boardings are estimated in the report at 1,800 to 2,150 by 2040. Possible landing sites include 11th Street, Old Town, Point Ruston and Point Defiance.

“This is as much an economic driver for Tacoma as it is a way to be resilient in the face of major emergencies and massive growth pressures for our region,” Mello said. “This is as much about getting people to Tacoma to work, shop and play as it is getting people to other points north.”

The study examined operating and capital costs, possible routes and estimates of ridership and costs.

A ferry terminal, according to the report, could cost from $500,000 dollars to more than $3 million, depending on location. Each ferry — and three might be needed — would cost $10 million to $17 million, depending on size, according to a summary accompanying the report.

Sources for funding still need to be found.

“We still have a lot of work to do and details to flesh out ...,” Mello said in the release. “I am very excited at the possibility of adding another mode of transportation to the options available to residents, particularly one that gives people options other than sitting in traffic.”

Fast ferries are still being launched in Washington. Service from Kingston to Seattle was added in November, with additional bus service to deliver passengers to the ferry terminal.

Officials want to update an area-wide, passenger-only ferry study to include details about Tacoma, along with “stakeholder engagement, financing strategies, refined costs, and detailed route information,” according to the release.

Funding for that study is requested in next year’s state transportation budget.

The report is available online at http://cms.cityoftacoma.org/pds/fastferrystudyresults.pdf

Debbie Cockrell has been with The News Tribune since 2009. She reports on business and development, local and regional issues.


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