All News & Blogs
Prince William County could launch commuter ferries up the Potomac River to Fort Belvoir, Alexandria, Washington Navy Yard
Visit the Photo Place
By KELLY HANNON
With traffic clogging area roads, Prince William County hopes commuting will be swifter on a route without cars--the Potomac River.
Passenger ferries are being floated as one more way to move people from the suburbs to work.
Prince William County is using $225,000 from the Virginia Department of Transportation to study the idea's potential.
It will conduct test boat runs on May 4, 5 and 6 from stops at Prince William marinas at Quantico, Dumfries and Occoquan to Fort Belvoir, Alexandria and the Washington Navy Yard. The test boat will be a catamaran that seats 149.
Riding the ferry to work would be a low-stress, scenic option, said Rick Canizales, Prince William transportation planning manager.
"People are envisioning wifi and a little snack bar where they can buy concessions, where you can have your coffee and sit on a new commuter system that will get you where you need to go in a relatively short amount of time," Canizales said.
The idea is not new.
In the late 1980s, attempts to start a commuter ferry on the Potomac River with stops in Stafford, Prince William and Washington failed when officials concluded that the expense per passenger to run the boats was too high.
Another study in the late 1990s reached the same conclusion. Also, Virginia Railway Express was trying to grow ridership at the time, and it seemed wrong to start a service that would siphon away potential passengers, Canizales said.
Today, some VRE trains are at capacity, with passengers standing in train aisles, Canizales said.
"It adds a transportation alternative," he said.
No information is available yet on ferry ticket prices, schedules, stops, the type of boat to be used or how many passengers it could carry.
The VDOT-funded feasibility study will look only at whether running the boats is environmentally and logistically possible, Canizales said, and it will give planners a better sense of how long trips will take.
He expects the boats would travel 30 to 32 knots per hour except where there are no-wake provisions.
The feasibility study should be wrapped up in midsummer.
If the Prince William Board of Supervisors decides to pursue the idea, the county would conduct a market study to see if enough passengers would ride the boats, and how much they would be willing to pay.
The county would have to order the boats, a process that could add another 18 months to two years, Canizales said.
Ferries could increase commuting options for area residents who work at the Washington Navy Yard, which has fewer direct transit options than other work destinations, Canizales said. The study will also look at potential stops in Maryland at Indian Head, Marshall Hall and National Harbor.
Kelly Hannon: 540/374-5436