Plans for new transit options face trials — chiefly funding and getting the region to agree to them.
How about a high-speed ferry to transport commuters from Woodbridge to the D.C. waterfront in under an hour? Or a gondola to carry people through the skies over Rosslyn to Georgetown in less than five minutes? A superfast train that could take you from Union Station in Northeast Washington to Baltimore in 15 minutes and another that would get you to Richmond in 90 — more than an hour faster than today’s Amtrak service?
Sound too unrealistic for a region that struggles with upgrading its crumbling bridges, paying for new roads and finding the money to rebuild its struggling Metro system? Possibly. But transit planners, advocates and government officials say the proposals aren’t just wishful thinking.
The Washington region consistently ranks near the top for having some of the worst traffic in the country. In 2014, residents spent an estimated 82 hours stuck in traffic — up from 74 hours in 2010, according to the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
The region also is projected to add more than 1.5 million people and 1 million jobs by 2045, according to a report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, worsening congestion.
Separate studies are underway to determine the feasibility or next steps for projects such as the commuter ferry and the gondola to provide relief…Prince William County Supervisor Frank J. Principi has been pushing to bring commuter ferries to Washington’s waterways for over a decade.
The project was recently awarded a $174,000 federal grant for an environmental impact study.
Principi (D-Woodbridge) said a market exists for fast ferry service between Alexandria and the District. Eventually, as areas along the Potomac River continue to develop, Principi envisions a wider system, accessed by bus, bike or rail, where commuters would pay fares with their Metro SmarTrip card, and with routes as far as the Occoquan in Woodbridge to the Washington Navy Yard.
“I see no reason why we can’t have fast ferry service here in our own region. It’s just a matter of time,” Principi said. He said the project could come to fruition within five years.
Ferries are heavily used in harbor cities such as New York, San Francisco and Seattle. New York City, for example, recently announced plans to expand its ferry system to connect communities not served by the subway in Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx to work centers in Lower Manhattan.
But in Washington, aside from some river taxi service mostly used by tourists, the concept of a commuter ferry has been largely unexplored.
“It’s too bad because the water is a great way to get around,” National Harbor developer Jon Peterson said in an interview earlier this year. “It is a great alternative. Every major city uses their waters.