If a group of Northern Virginia elected officials and business leaders have their way, many of their constituents could soon be making their way to work on a high-speed ferry system connecting the region via the Potomac River, from as far as Woodbridge to the D.C. waterfront.
On Thursday, a 149-seat ferry made a test run from Occoquan Harbour Marina in Prince William to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County, replicating the modern ferry experience with free WiFi, charging stations and onboard concessions. For riders, the best feature was the beautiful water scenery, traffic-free.
“Better than the bumper-to-bumper traffic of 95 and 395,” said Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. Principi (D-Woodbridge).
Principi, an enthusiastic backer of ferry service, spearheaded a day-long ferry summit Thursday that brought together more than 300 officials from the public and private sectors to discuss the vision for a system that would carry passengers from as far as Prince William and as near as Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor on the Maryland shore.
…At Thursday’s summit, regional leaders discussed how to make better use of the river system in the region’s overburdened transportation network. Ferry proponents said the idea is to take people upstream, downstream and across the river, potentially cutting commute times in half. A fast-ferry trip from Woodbridge to the District, for example, could potentially be done in under an hour, officials say. This will allow commuters to trade unpredictable road traffic or crowded train cars for cushioned seats, onboard concessions and WiFi.
A ferry from the Occoquan is realistic, officials said, and could happen within the next five years, according to Scott Davies, director of the Office of Marine Highways and Passenger Services, which oversees more than 29,000 nautical miles of navigable waterways.
Moving forward, planners will need to determine the cost of shore-side infrastructure improvements and work with private and public waterfront owners, including the military and National Park Service. Some areas along the rivers have “no wake” zones, in which vessels are required to travel at slower speeds.
But industry experts say new vessels are designed to run at higher speeds, with smaller waves than older models…