A bridge or tunnel could replace the Corran Narrows ferry crossing in Lochaber.
Such a move is considered “a viable proposition from an engineering, planning and economic perspective,” according to a feasibility study funded by the regional transport body Hitrans, Highland Council and the development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
The partners believe a fixed link would dramatically improve connectivity between Lochaber and Ardgour on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, and provide improved access to services and employment opportunities for people living in Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Mull.
They believe it would also cut travel time and remove the need for travellers to pay ferry charges.
The Hitrans board, which met via video conference was told there are “no showstopper issues” preventing the construction of a fixed link.
A study conducted by transport consultants Stantec examined 72 scenarios including an option for a tunnel to the south of the ferry route as well as routes for bridging the narrows.
Three options for a fixed link remain on the table. They are a tunnel, a bridge to be constructed along the existing ferry route and a bridge along a central corridor to the south of the ferry route.
The estimated construction costs would be between £42m and £50m for a bridge, and £66m to £108m for a tunnel.
Such costs are “beyond the resources of the council” which runs the existing ferry service. The Scottish Government agency Transport Scotland will be approached for funding.
Further work will be carried out to establish a fuller business case and public consultation is promised.
Separately, the council is progressing an outline business case for immediate transport problems associated with the ferry service to ensure short to its medium-term sustainability.
Hitrans chairman and council vice convener Allan Henderson said: “The Corran Ferry is the second busiest route in Scotland, providing a lifeline service to the remote communities of Ardnamurchan, Morvern and Mull.
“The current service, operated with an ageing vessel and limited crew numbers, is no longer sustainable as demand increases.
“So, we need to consider the best option for upgrading the crossing of the Narrows. Doing nothing is not an option.”
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