Friends of Frog Ferry announces research of viable ferry service on Columbia and Willamette rivers
PORTLAND — If research affirms their hopes, area nonprofit, Friends of Frog Ferry, will help found a passenger ferry service from Vancouver to Portland in four years.
At a press conference aboard the docked Portland Spirit, Friends of Frog Ferry Founder and President Susan Bladholm, announced efforts to secure funding which will support five feasibility studies on the viability of a ferry for the Columbia-Willamette waterway.
“This is a point of being curious. Let’s learn more,” Bladholm said. “Rather than saying it’s too hard, or it’s too expensive, let’s equip ourselves with facts of data, let’s conduct the feasibility studies, let’s find out if we can put together a viable means of passenger ferry service.”
Bladholm founded the 501c3 this year, with the goal of following other city’s examples. Every other major river city in the country has ferry services, similar to the proposed one, Bladholm said.
Also in attendance were Michael Cox, the chief of staff for Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, Dan Yates the president of Portland Spirit, Matt Markstaller of Daimler development and construction, and Charlene Zidell of Zidell Yards.
All spoke, and gave their support of a passenger ferry system, with many citing the cost effectiveness, timely nature and environmental benefits of such a project, as opposed to starting a new or third Columbia crossing right away.
“I’ve been working on this, myself, off and on for about 20 years,” Yates said. “I’m very excited about the progress Susan has made, pushing this out into the public and getting so many great letters of support.”
In 2006, Portland conducted a similar study on passenger taxis for the river. At the time, the report concluded that a Willamette taxi ferry service would be beneficial to tourism and commuters, but would be difficult to implement due to a lack of docking facilities.
The study did not research the viability of a full ferry service between both cities.
In addition, it was shown in the previous study that an additional cost of $1-2 million would be required for constructing housing and maintenance for the vessels.
The research proposed by Friends of Frog Ferry is estimated to cost $650,000.
The plan to fund the studies stems from a dual-city partnership and the investment of private partners.
“We need the financial support from everyone,” Bladholm said. “It’s expensive, however, I feel pretty confident saying, I think that’s about a tenth of the cost, were a public agency to go ahead and take the lead on this, because we do have so much pro bono support behind our effort.”
A cross-section of private industry supporters are currently offering pro bono and low bono support for the ferry project, Bladholm said.
Oregon Metro and the mayor’s office for the city of Portland, have already voiced support of the ferry, with ODOT’s Transportation Commission currently considering the proposal. Friends of Frog Ferry’s research and presented ideas are also included in Metro’s Regional Transportation Plan.
“Portlanders want a vibrant waterfront, the mayor does too,” said Michael Cox, Ted Wheeler’s chief of staff. “A ferry service serves both of these needs; transit and water access. The mayor is already a committed partner on this with Metro and other jurisdictions. The mayor fully supports a feasibility study.”
Bladholm said she has met with Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes, as well as Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. Vancouver requires the proposal also be in WSDOT’s Regional Transportation Plan, before any city funding can occur, Bladholm said.
Friends of Frog Ferry will follow up with the city if their proposal is included in the plan. Vancouver representation was invited to the press conference, and was attended by Port of Vancouver Economic Development Project Manager Jim Hagar.