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Paine Field passenger terminal
An artist’s conception shows the passenger terminal that’s planned for Everett’s Paine Field. (Propeller Airports Illustration)

Bugged by I-5 traffic to Sea-Tac? Alaska Airlines is promising a work-around: The Seattle-based airline says it will start running regularly scheduled passenger flights out of Everett’s Paine Field starting next year.

“As our region continues to grow at a record pace, and Sea-Tac Airport nears capacity, the time is right to bring air service to our valued guests living in the North Sound,” Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden said today in a news release. “Today’s news means less time stuck in traffic on Interstate 5 and more time enjoying your vacation or making the most of your business trip.”

Alaska said it would offer nine daily flights from Paine Field, using Boeing 737s and Embraer 175 regional jets, subject to government approvals.

“We’re not quite ready to share details of the routes,” John Kirby, Alaska’s vice president of capacity planning, said in an airline blog posting. “But I can tell you they won’t be limited to short, regional flights. We’re talking daily, nonstop flights to some of our most popular destinations.”

That implies the list will include Portland, Ore., as well as the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles in California.

Paine Field, which is about 20 miles north of Seattle, doesn’t currently offer scheduled passenger service. Instead, the Snohomish County airport is used primarily for Boeing test flights and deliveries, as well as maintenance stopovers and general aviation. Boeing’s Everett factory is basically next door.

Construction is due to begin next month on a passenger terminal for Paine Field, as part of a development project managed by Propeller Airports. Alaska is expected to provide further information on its future routes as the project heads toward completion next year.

When the terminal is finished, its two gates are expected to accommodate up to 20 departures a day, which means Alaska is likely to be the airport’s highest-profile passenger carrier.

Passenger traffic has been sharply rising at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, amounting to more than 45.7 million people last year. Traffic congestion along the 13-mile stretch of I-5 between Seattle and Sea-Tac has been on the rise as well. Shifting some of that traffic northward to Everett could ease the backup, particularly for travelers north of Seattle’s core.

Rush-hour traffic statistics indicate that, under current conditions, it would take less time to drive from Seattle’s Northgate Mall to Paine Field than it would to drive to Sea-Tac.

In today’s blog posting, Alaska Airlines highlighted the case of George Tsoukalas, a Snohomish County resident and “Million Miler” business traveler. Tsoukalas said he occasionally flies out of Bellingham, 90 miles north of Seattle, to avoid the Sea-Tac traffic jam.

“It’s not just the traffic driving through Seattle, but the inconsistency of it,” Tsoukalas was quoted as saying. “Some days it might take me 40 minutes to drive to the airport, other days it takes 70 minutes.”

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