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June 17, 2021

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Frog Ferry pilot program to begin in Portland, add Vancouver later

By , Columbian business reporter
Published:
2 Photos
Conceptual renderings detail the envisioned design of the prototype Frog Ferry vessel, which will be built by All American Marine, based in Bellingham. The 65-foot vessel would be short enough to fit under Portland's Steel Bridge without requiring a bridge lift on most days.
Conceptual renderings detail the envisioned design of the prototype Frog Ferry vessel, which will be built by All American Marine, based in Bellingham. The 65-foot vessel would be short enough to fit under Portland's Steel Bridge without requiring a bridge lift on most days. (Courtesy of Friends of Frog Ferry) Photo Gallery

PORTLAND — Friends of Frog Ferry, the nonprofit spearheading an effort to bring a river taxi service to the Portland area, held a press conference Tuesday to announce plans for a two-year pilot program. Vancouver would not be part of the test route, but could be added to the lineup later.

The pilot program would consist of a single vessel traveling between Cathedral Park in North Portland and the Riverplace marina at the south end of downtown Portland. The group hopes to start the program in the summer or fall of 2022, according to founder Susan Bladholm.

The pilot route is estimated to take 25 minutes one way. The ferry would run from 5 to 10 a.m. and then again from 2 to 7 p.m., Bladholm said, with one round trip per hour. Tickets would cost $3, with a discounted $2 “honored citizen” option.

Bladholm announced that the nonprofit had reached an agreement with Bellingham-based All American Marine to design and build a vessel and lease it for the pilot program with an option to purchase it later. The 65-foot vessel would carry up to 70 passengers and would be low-profile enough to fit under Portland’s Steel Bridge without a lift on most days.

If the pilot is successful, the group’s next goal would be to gradually expand the service over the seven-year period from 2024 to 2030, ultimately reaching a full capacity of seven vessels serving nine stations.

The seven new stops would be Vancouver, the Moda Center, Salmon Street, OMSI, Milwaukie, Lake Oswego and Oregon City. Vancouver is envisioned as being among the first stops added to the route in 2024, according to a document outlining the group’s envisioned timeline to build out the service.

The pilot program will cost an estimated $9.4 million, according to a press release from Friends of Frog Ferry. The group has received a $500,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation, and the city of Portland will sponsor a grant application for $3.3 million in federal dollars.

“This has been a good idea for a long time,” said former Portland Mayor Sam Adams, who currently serves as director of strategic innovations under Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and represented the city at the press conference.

Procurement of the remainder of the pilot funding is still underway, according to the press release, which cited additional possible sources such as Federal Transit Administration grants, corporate sponsors and private benefactors. The group estimated the cost of the eventual program to be about $40 million, plus $2.5 million per year in operating costs.

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