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High-speed ferry service for region?

Thursday - 11/15/2012, 11:03am  ET

Wilson Bridge from Potomac River (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is one of the crossings over the Potomac River. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTION - Rivers are the world's oldest highways, and now there's an effort to make the Washington region's rivers viable for commuters.

"Other communities around the country have high-speed ferry passenger service, why can't we?" asks Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi who is also chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Principi has long championed the idea of ferry routes and now a new study will look at five possible high-speed ferry routes on the Potomac, Occoquan and Anacostia rivers.

"It's to ask and answer the question - if we build it, will you ride it?"

Tim Payne, a consultant hired to do the study, says 50 potential terminal sites for five possible routes have been found.

"We need to narrow those down based on some combination of market feasibility as well as just physical feasibility," says Payne.

Virginia studied the possibility of a ferry service in 2000, but didn't find a customer base.

Payne says a lot has changed since then. There is more traffic on Interstate 95. More people are working at Fort Belvoir and the Quantico Marine base because of the Base Realignment and Closure plan. And, there's now riverside development at National Harbor along the Potomac River and Nationals Park along the Anacostia River.

The study is being paid for by parties interested in ferry service. Nine entities, including Prince Georges and Charles counties in Maryland and the City of Alexandria and Prince William County in Virginia, have expressed interest.

Payne hopes to have the study complete by the summer of 2013.

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