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The proposed passenger ferry would stop at the Cathedral Park Boat Launch. | Credit: Nathan Isaacs

Portsmouth — A proposed walk-on passenger ferry that would one day operate between Vancouver and Oregon City with a stop at St. Johns’ Cathedral Park would cost at least $40 million to launch and about $7 million annually to operate.

These were among the top takeaways announced by Friends of Frog Ferry marking the completion of its Operational Feasibility Study and Finance Plan in a late October virtual press conference.

During the event, the group also released a promotional video, “Imagine getting around town by boat. Instead of crawling along I-5?,” the narrator says in the video. “Well, hop on a high speed ferry, catch up on work or just chill.

Promotion video about the proposed passenger ferry for Portland. | Credit: Friends of Frog Ferry

Proposed Ferry’s Two Routes and Nine Stops

One thing I really love about my Cathedral Park townhouse is its views of the Willamette River. I  especially love watching the tugs, barges and other working boats and ships moving back and forth, hearing the whine of recreational boat racing to a favorite fishing spot, or hearing horns on a foggy morning or a short blast to raise the railroad bridge.

It’s what makes my home special, especially during these trying times in a pandemic. 

Susan Bladholm, Founder and President of Friends of Frog Ferry, agrees. “Our community deserves this. We deserve to connect to our riverways. I believe we’re river people here and river communities are unusual and special.”

“We want to reconnect people with the river and foster a great sense of stewardship and reverence for the river,” she said.

She points out that the Portland-Vancouver market is one of the few river communities in the US to not use its rivers for transit.

But that wasn’t always the case.  

James John, St. Johns founder, operated a rowboat ferry service across the Willamette River to Linnton beginning in 1852, according to his Wikipedia entry.

The Frog Ferry group proposes a ferry line that is split into two routes, an upper river route between Oregon City and downtown Portland, and a Lower River route between downtown and Vancouver.

A quick geography lesson for those that may not know, the Willamette River flows south to north.

Screenshot of route and stops for the proposed passenger ferry between Vancouver and Oregon City.
Route and stops for the proposed passenger ferry between Vancouver and Oregon City. | Credit: Friends of Frog Ferry

For the proposed Cathedral Park site, the operational feasibility study calls for a new 100-foot dock at the Cathedral Park Boat Ramp. Other infrastructure recommendations for the Cathedral Park stop would include a covered gangway, security cameras

The group is hoping to launch a pilot proof of concept between Cathedral Park and downtown by the summer of 2022 and begin region-wide operations in the Summer of 2024.

Big Questions to be Answered About Passenger Ferry

There are plenty more to share so stay tuned for future stories, as well as some big questions the group needs answered. Those include: 

What public agency is going to own the ferry. This could be TriMet, PBOT or something else like that. 

They need public agency owner to then pursue federal funding, which they are hoping they’ll have an 80-20 federal to state match.

And they need additional funding to really dig into the details on ridership and would there be 3,000 passengers per day, even if we’re counting some of those twice for both commutes.

And I have a question for those of you who live in Cathedral Park or who regularly launch boats from the Cathedral Park site. Do you love this idea even if it means upwards 500 vehicles driving on your streets and taking up parking places?