Potomac ferry service idea resurfaces

The Elizabeth River Ferry, operated by Hampton Roads Transit, travels toward Norfolk (in background) from Portsmouth, Va. The Virginia Department of Transportation says funding is now available to pay for a similar ferry service connecting Northern Virginia with Maryland and D.C. (VDOT/Flickr.com)

WOODBRIDGE, Va. – If you could, would you ditch the car and take a boat to work? A commuter ferry on the Potomac River only is being considered once again and this time there may be money to operate it.

The project was last seriously considered four years ago when some local leaders took the media on a ferry ride that started at Indian Head in Charles County, crossed the Potomac to the Occoquan River, and then made stops at Fort Belvoir and Alexandria before finishing at the Navy Yard in D.C.

But the concept never got off the ground because there was no money for it.

That has changed. Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton says the state’s new $4 billion transportation package may provide some of the the funds. And the project could be eligible for federal funding.

“That could include both money for the ferry itself as well as the construction of facilities to serve it,” says Connaughton.

Providing docks for the ferry and parking at those docks was one of the major obstacles in 2009.

“Our opportunity may be here to see if we can find ourselves some small cheap boats, get this up and see how many people who can use it,” says Connaughton.

The passenger-only ferry could be marketed not only to commuters, but also tourists.

The latest report on the ferry option is due in October. Connaughton says the passenger ferry could be back in the state’s six-year transportation plan, which details which projects are slated for funding, starting next year.

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