The Destin City Council voted Monday to contribute funding to a study on a proposed ferry system between Destin and Fort Walton Beach.
- The council approved $12,786 toward a $51,144 feasibility study on the ferry system. The study would be done by HDR, the firm conducting an analysis of the Emerald Coast Rider public transportation system for Okaloosa County.
Mayor Bobby Wagner, who sits on the Emerald Coast Rider cooperative board, said Route 30 between Fort Walton Beach and Destin has been one of the least efficient based on preliminary data from HDR’s analysis. He proposed the ferry idea as an alternative.
The additional funding approved Monday would allow HDR to expand its study by 90 days to include analysis of the ferry system’s feasibility.
Wagner said the goal is to provide more of a commercial transit option to alleviate traffic congestion on Highway 98. He said it could also help demonstrate higher ridership numbers to the state to get more funding for improving overall public transportation in the area.
- The Destin council’s funding is contingent on the Fort Walton Beach City Council contributing $12,786 and the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners contributing $25,572. The county would provide 50% under Wagner’s proposal.
Councilmen Jim Bagby and Dewey Destin said they would support doing the study but expressed skepticism about the ferry system’s viability long-term, citing struggles in nearby Pensacola.
Councilman Kevin Schmidt said he looks forward to seeing the study results, noting Fort Walton Beach and Destin are different towns than Pensacola. He said the city’s new property at the foot of the Destin Bridge and potential future walk under the bridge offer possibilities to connect to a ferry system.
- Wagner tested the travel time and said the commute from the FWB Landing to Capt. Royal Melvin Park is around 32 minutes.
- If the ferry docked at the bridge, it could cut the commute to around 22 minutes.
The Mayor said the study would provide data to determine whether a ferry is feasible or if the city needs to consider other transportation options.
Mayor Wagner also said that Baytowne Wharf has expressed interest in expanding the ferry system to its marina if the route between Fort Walton Beach and Destin proves viable.