MASSE IN THE NEWS: Ferry service still a good bet

Published | Publié: 2012-07-27
Received | Reçu: 2012-07-27 12:15 AM


Ferry service still a good bet


   Not many people remember that a passenger ferry service successfully ran across the Detroit River for nearly 60 years, with the last voyage from Walkerville to Detroit logged on May 15, 1942.

   Since that time, there's been a lot of talk about reviving the ferry, and that's about it. That's too bad, because both Windsor and Detroit have waterfronts that are tourist destinations that could benefit from a regular ferry service.

   So let's hope the latest discussion about resurrecting the ferry service results in a workable business plan.

   In fact, if all does go well, the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority - which is pushing the Windsor-Detroit ferry's revival - says the service could be in operation next spring.

   Deputy director Steven Olinek says the port authority has received the go ahead from the U.S. federal government to purchase a vessel that would have a capacity of about 100 passengers. It would operate on a schedule to accommodate early morning and late afternoon commuters and then adjust other runs to suit tourists, sports fans and concert-goers.

   The authority could also house both U.S. and Canadian customs operations at its new $22 million waterfront docking facility in downtown Detroit.

   Windsor already has a working port off of Dieppe Gardens to accommodate a ferry, and Windsor West MP Brian Masse is pushing the idea of having the processing done on the American side. Masse said he is preparing to send letters to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Transportation Minister Denis Lebel asking them to support the plan for a joint customs facility.

   The fact that there would be no need to build and maintain a customs operation on the Windsor side should make if far easier to get the ferry service up and running quickly.

   Certainly, there's a strong case for a ferry service. Windsor already has thousands of individuals who work in the Detroit area and might switch to a more efficient way of crossing the border. And the city's riverfront - featuring the Odette Sculpture Garden, gardens, trails, the festival plaza and stage - has become a focal point for visitors. Windsor's core offers Caesars Windsor, hotels and a myriad of restaurants.

   Detroit is also spending $44 million to finish its Riverwalk and the city continues to offer an attractive mix of pro sports and entertainment that's not only popular with area residents but can't be matched in any Canadian city. There's also Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village.

   As well, Windsor and Detroit are already dual stops for Great Lakes cruises - for example, a ship can dock in Detroit on the way to lakes Erie and Ontario, and then stop in Windsor on the way back. A ferry could be a selling point in encouraging cruise ship business.

   If the ferry proposal goes forward, there must also be a solid business case to look after the interests of local taxpayers. Certainly, we wouldn't expect residents on either side of the border to shoulder any costs related to the viabiality of the ferry service.

   There's good reason for optimism that the time has finally come - again - for a regular ferry service. It would provide convenience for local residents, promote tourism and further the strong links between our two cities.