Fast ferry option from Alexandria to D.C. receives grant money

WASHINGTON — Within a year, a fast ferry could bring commuters from the Alexandria, Virginia, waterfront to the Navy Yard.

Prince William County Supervisor Frank Principi says U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded a grant of nearly $4 million to provide assistance to help establish the service.

The money will be used to buy two ferry boats and operate them during commuter hours.

“Assuming that it takes off, and there’s a high demand for it, as our study indicated, then [we could] expand the service,” Principi says.

Principi, an advocate for the ferry service, has been working with the Northern Virginia Regional Commission and regional stakeholders to start the service after a 2009 Virginia Department of Transportation study concluded that it would be viable transit option for the region.

The NVRC is made up of 14-member governments from the Northern Virginia suburbs.

“The market analysis, where we’re able to demonstrate a consumer demand for the service, I think was the ultimate issue that led the U.S. Department of Transportation to financially support the launch of ferry service in the region,” he says.

Getting the ferry service off the ground is not a huge technologically complex issue that some would think. But growing it and sustaining it will be more difficult.

And that will require more partners to climb onboard, he says.

“Be it the military, local and state government and private sector to sustain the launch of the service,” he adds.

Principi says the reason it should be up and running within a year is because, “We don’t want to pick locations that require extensive dredging and environmental issues. We want to pick clean environmentally sound locations possibly with a floating dock.”

He adds that there are opportunities for a floating dock on the waterfront in Alexandria.

Principi says the ferry didn’t come about overnight.

“The U.S. Navy, the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Maritime Administration and local operators have been meeting for the better part of 18 to 24 months and have conducted the third of three studies. We’ve been studying this issue, the technical feasibility, the economic feasibility for some time now,” he says.

Additionally, he says the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is very interested in the possibility of having ferry service from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to and from points in D.C. possibly using a floating dock.

He says he is confident the ferry service will be successful especially, “once we get boats into the water and demonstrate that this is a viable alternative to I-95.”

The NVRC is the financial administrator for the grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the commission will oversee the ferry service.

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