A proposed commuter ferry system for the Potomac River in Northern Virginia has gained attention from regional officials, but the price tag has dampened enthusiasm.
With budget shortfalls looming and a projected recession ahead, local and state leaders have turned their attention elsewhere, leaving it to the private sector to consider investing in the costly project.
“There’s not a lot of money on the public sector side available to make these substantial investments in equipment and places for the boats to dock,” said Robert Lazaro, executive director for the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, which recently received the latest report on the commuter ferry idea. “It’s a doable project, but it’s going to require private sector involvement.”
Since the early 2000s, leaders in Northern Virginia and the rest of the Washington metropolitan area have sought alternative transportation options to address ever-growing road congestion and conducted multiple studies. One idea was to operate a ferry along the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland, south of Washington, D.C.
More than 200 people and groups spanning the government, military, higher education and private industry sectors have studied the idea.
The proposal isn’t unprecedented for a public service. Virginia operates three ferry systems, of which the largest is the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry that runs from Jamestown in James City County to Surry County.
In 2018, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, which also operates bus system OmniRide, was close to launching a pilot that would run two daily boats on the Potomac, but plans were derailed when the Virginia Department of Transportation and NRVC failed to qualify for a necessary federal grant, InsideNoVa reported last year.
On Sept. 28, the Northern Virginia Regional Commission received the latest report on the commuter ferry proposal from Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates.
Planners outlined four possible routes along which the commuter ferry could operate. Two of the four would originate in Woodbridge, with one route terminating at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling and the other going to Southeast and Southwest Waterfront in Washington, D.C. A third route branded the DC River Circulator would run from Georgetown to Poplar Point, and the fourth would go from Charles County, Maryland to Joint Base Anacostia Bolling.
Project costs for the Virginia route to Joint Base Anacostia Bolling range from $23.5 million to $53.5 million depending on the type of vessel, necessary terminal upgrades and dredging needs. Fare prices are proposed to be $10.
“I think over time some of this will happen, maybe not in my lifetime, because I think it makes a lot of sense, but not for right now,” said NVRC member Libby Garvey at the commission’s September meeting.
Payne said the project will likely be tabled indefinitely until another group takes over.
“There is great hope that there is project leadership who is going to step up and carry this project forward, but how that happens remains to be seen,” Payne said. Read More
Northern Virginia leaders are taking steps to assist victims of the earthquake that devastated Turkey and Syria in early February.
In an effort organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC), elected leaders plan to announce a local aid program to collect funds that will be used to purchase food packages for those affected by the disaster.
In a release, Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay said the profound loss of life in Turkey and Syria is heartbreaking.
”But I’m proud to be a part of a community that rallies together to help those in need both regionally and internationally,” McKay said.
The goal is to raise $25,000, according to NVRC Executive Director Robert Lazaro Jr. The money will be used to purchase more than eight tons of food. Each package contains 30 pounds of food and costs $45.
“We are working with [the nongovernmental organization Embrace Relief] that is purchasing food packages in Turkey which in turn are distributed to area residents,” Lazaro said in a release.
NVRC Chair John Chapman said residents and businesses have always stepped up to help those in need. Previously, the region collaborated on a winter clothes drive that sent tons of blankets, coats, socks and gloves to Ukrainian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion.
“This time is no different. I urge folks to visit the website to make a donation to provide food to those families tragically impacted by the earthquake,” said Chapman.
Members of Fairfax County’s Virginia Task Force 1 search and rescue team were deployed to Turkey and Syria after the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit on Feb. 6, killing thousands of people and displacing millions. As of yesterday (Wednesday), the death toll reached roughly 51,000 people.
The task force, which was part of a national response team assembled by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), returned to Fairfax County on Feb. 20 after 11 days of searching for survivors.
Leaders will officially announce the program at the Fairfax County Government Center Forum on Friday (March 3) at 3 p.m. In the meantime, the commission has set up a link to collect donations for the victims.
Photo via VA-TF1/Twitter
Northern Virginia is coming together to help Ukrainians struck by war.
Local leaders and community members, organized by the Northern Virginia Regional Commission, will launch a donation drive at the Fairfax County Government Center on Wednesday (March 23), collecting items through April 15 to send to refugees in Ukraine and Poland.
“Fairfax County has joined the rest of the world in watching Russia’s invasion of Ukraine bring violence and war to millions of innocent people,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said in a statement.
The donations will be accepted at over 30 locations — from libraries to supervisors’ offices and more — starting Wednesday (March 23) as officials kick off the campaign. The event will be broadcast at 10 a.m. on the Fairfax County government’s Facebook page.
Requested items include new and gently used coats as well as new blankets, gloves, and pairs of sweat or heavy socks. More information about the drive, including a list of collection sites, can be found at helpukrainenova.org.
The items will be boxed together with help from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Oakton congregation. Paxton Companies, a North Springfield moving business, will then shrink wrap boxes and transport them to Wilmington, North Carolina.
A business that wishes to remain anonymous will ship the donations overseas, bringing the supplies to trucks in Antwerp and a non-governmental organization that has a supply chain on the ground, NVRC executive director Bob Lazaro said.
The campaign came together after local elected leaders reached out to NVRC, seeking to replicate a similar effort by the area in 2013 to help Syrian refugees who fled a civil war that’s still continuing.
Fairfax County now hosts an annual blanket and coat drive for Syrian refugees.
The United Nations’ human migration agency has reported that over 3.4 million people in Ukraine have fled the country. Every minute, 55 more Ukrainian children become refugees, the United Nations Children’s Fund has estimated.
“Our residents don’t want to stand by — they want to help,” McKay said. “As we uplift and offer support to our residents of Ukrainian descent here in the County, we can also aid in efforts abroad, sending much needed supplies to the millions of displaced Ukrainians taking refuge in Poland.”