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Passenger-only ferry service from Vancouver to Portland gains momentum with grant money

ODOT and PBOT awarded a combined $240,000 in grants for an economic and feasibility study.

PORTLAND, Ore — Getting to work by bike, car or public transit is a part of our daily lives. Drive-times can take up to, and sometimes more than, an hour just to go a few miles. 

What if there was another option to skirt the traffic and get to work on time?

Friends of Frog Ferry has been working on a plan to bring a passenger-only ferry to the Willamette River. The non-profit proposes 9 stops from Vancouver, traveling down the Columbia and connecting to the Willamette, to Oregon City. Stops would include St. John's, Swan Island, Convention Center, Salmon Springs, OMSI, OHSU, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego and Oregon City. 

"We're looking at a low-profile vessel so that we can clear those bridges. It's estimated that the passenger count will range between 100 and 149 passengers," Susan Bladholm, the founder and president of Friends of Frog Ferry said during a news conference Tuesday morning.

RELATED: Ferry from Vancouver to Portland proposed

Bladholm said the boat would be a hybrid using electric and renewable diesel. She said it would alleviate traffic congestion taking 6,000 people off the road daily during the week.

"We obviously really need to work hard to reduce greenhouse gas admissions," Bladholm said.

The time it takes to get from Vancouver to downtown Portland would be comparable to what a typical drive would take with some traffic. 

Bladholm believes it would take 38 minutes to ferry passengers from Vancouver to Salmon Springs going against the current and 30 minutes for a return trip. St. John's to Salmon Springs would take about 16 minutes.

"Congestion is growing every single day, we need multiple solutions to our traffic congestion problems," she said.

The ferry system is still in the planning phases. A case study report looking at ferry service models around the world was completed in the fall of 2019. A demand modeling report looking at where commuters are coming from and going was completed at the end of last year. 

Next is the operational infrastructure report and to make that happen, the Oregon Department of Transportation has granted the non-profit $200,000 to complete the study matched by a $40,000 grant by the Portland Bureau of Transportation.

"This is really an important plan because it will assess the current infrastructure we have. How many docks do we have, are our docks adequate for our needs? It will assess the current infrastructure, it will tell us what is needed, how much it's gonna cost and then how are we gonna pay for it," Bladholm said.

The cost of a daily ticket will run around $5.50 with monthly service costing $125.

Friends of Frog Ferry hopes to be operational by spring of 2023.

RELATED: Rush hour grind: Drive times grow longer in Portland metro despite more people working from home

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