Fast ferry service in D.C. region possible in near future

The Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which is leading the project, says this is the size of the boat being considered for the across-river trips above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  (Northern Virginia Regional Commission)
The Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which is leading the project, says this is the size of the boat being considered for the across-river trips above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. (Courtesy Northern Virginia Regional Commission) (Courtesy of the Northern Virginia Regional Commission)
A photo provided by Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. shows what local fast ferry catamarans might look like. (Courtesy of Frank J. Principi)
A photo provided by Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. shows what local fast ferry catamarans might look like. (Courtesy Frank J. Principi) (Courtesy of Frank J. Principi)
The market analysis sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission recommends expansion of existing river taxi service that predominantly serves tourists between Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor in Maryland and Georgetown in D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King)
The market analysis sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission recommends expansion of existing river taxi service that predominantly serves tourists between Old Town Alexandria, Virginia and National Harbor in Maryland and Georgetown in D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King) (WTOP/Kristi King)
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The Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which is leading the project, says this is the size of the boat being considered for the across-river trips above the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.  (Northern Virginia Regional Commission)
A photo provided by Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. shows what local fast ferry catamarans might look like. (Courtesy of Frank J. Principi)
The market analysis sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission recommends expansion of existing river taxi service that predominantly serves tourists between Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor in Maryland and Georgetown in D.C. (WTOP/Kristi King)

WASHINGTON — Fast ferry service could be a commuting option in the D.C. metro area in the not-too-distant future.

“Within the next five years we’re going to be in a position to launch fast ferry service,” says Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi, who is working closely with the commission heading the project.

A recent market analysis sponsored by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission finds ferry service is a viable option for points between the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and Washington, D.C.

“The shorter connections were determined to be economically feasible without any government subsidy — that’s an important point,” Principi says.

Those shorter connections would be between Alexandria and Southeast and Southwest Washington, and between the National Airport/Crystal City area and Southeast and Southwest Washington.

Catamarans with a capacity of 100 to 150 people would run shuttles about every 20 to 30 minutes.

The idea is for the ferries to connect with existing transit services. Terminals would be within walking distance of areas served by shuttle buses, transit operators and/or Virginia Railway Express.

Principi believes that, once established, the ferry service could be expanded to Woodbridge and the Occoquan River as demand rises. It would help get “commuters off of Route 1, Interstate 95 (and) the bridges going into D.C.,” he says.

Principi says all the right stakeholders are at the table. They include leaders from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia; ferry service providers operating in other cities; and numbers of federal transportation agencies, including the U.S. Department of Transportation and U.S. Maritime Administration.

MARAD is hosting a Fast Ferry Summit in the fall.

As the chairman of the Metropolitan Council of Governments’ Emergency Preparedness Council, Principi sees ferries playing a role beyond moving commuters and potentially expanding tourist areas.

“It’s a proven concept that ferry service is a tool in a declared disaster,” he says.

Principi points out that the miracle landing on the Hudson River in 2009 included rescues of passengers from US Airways Flight 1549 by local commuter ferries. And Principi recalls how clogged local roads were after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that included the Pentagon.

“I see an evacuation component to this as well.”

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