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Portland's passenger ferry launches test run from North Portland to downtown

The first Frog Ferry vessel should be complete by spring of 2023. It would go from Cathedral Park to the South Waterfront in 25 minutes.

PORTLAND, Oregon — Commuters trying to save on gas, money and time spent in traffic will soon be able to travel from Cathedral Park in St. Johns to the South Waterfront in downtown Portland in about 25 minutes by boat.

For the past four years, the Frog Ferry has been working with city and state officials to bring an all-passenger ferry service to the Willamette River.

"We just know foundationally that a strong community really needs a strong transportation infrastructure program and we want to get people out on the river and fully appreciating really the magic and benefit of being a river city," said Susan Bladholm, founder and president of Frog Ferry. 

Bladholm, along with a few dozen other passengers, rode aboard two pilot boats to showcase what a passenger ferry trip would be like to those with a vested interest.

"How many people have actually gotten to see our city from the water and to get out on the river to experience it," said Bladholm, "Seeing's believing. You need to get here. Everyone's saying, 'Oh my gosh, we're moving so fast at 22 knots' well it's a quick trip—absolutely."

The pilot boats cruised at 22 knots to mimic how fast the passenger ferry boats would be traveling. At that speed, the Frog Ferry would take off from the Cathedral Park dock and head downtown to Riverplace along the South Waterfront in about 25 minutes.

"The actual ferry boat will be covered, it will be enclosed. We'll be sitting down, there will be little concessions area in there, there will be a video safety briefing for people as well," said Bladholm.

Credit: Friends of Frog Ferry

The first Frog Ferry vessel should be complete by spring of 2023, just before the first run with passengers would take place. Each vessel would carry 70 passengers, eventually bringing the fleet to seven vessels and carrying around a million people a year.

"Love the idea that we're connecting and building an alternative to clogging up the freeways," said Dave Barcos, who runs the non-profit North Bank Innovations and lives in Vancouver. "It's a beautiful view coming down, I've lived up here since 1990 and never been on the river and because we just don't have a lot of chances to do it, I just think it's going to be an awesome opportunity to see the city."

Bladholm said they are awaiting approval for the company's Federal Transportation Administration's grant they sent in on Oct. 6 as well as several requests to corporate sponsors.

"Everyday we're one step closer, but it feels so full of promise for our community," Bladholm said.

A one-way ticket on the Frog Ferry will cost $3 for adults and it's free for children age 12 and under. 

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