MASSE IN THE NEWS: Windsor-Detroit Ferry Service Floated

Published | Publié: 2012-07-19
Received | Reçu: 2012-07-19 8:51 PM
WINDSOR STAR WINDSOR STAR
ESSEX COUNTY

Windsor-Detroit Ferry Service Floated

Chris Thompson

   There may still be a number of logistical hurdles to overcome, but if the Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has its way, there will be ferry service between downtown Detroit and Windsor next spring for the first time since 1929.

   Deputy director Steven Olinek said the port authority has received funding approval from the U.S. government to purchase a vessel but there is much work to be done before that takes place.

   "There are many impediments. It's a project that's ongoing."

   Olinek said the vessel would ideally be relatively small, with a capacity of less than 100.

   "We've done a number of market studies but it's hard to know what the ridership really is or or would be potentially," said Olinek.

   "We would likely err on the side of caution and have a smaller vessel than not. It would be something less than 100 passengers and would be operating at peak hours, morning and evening, and perhaps on a scaled-back schedule other hours as well.

   "You have to realize a large part of this and what's interesting is there are a large number of Windsor commuters who traverse the border every day to work in the health care industry and others here in Detroit who would form a portion of the basic ridership we would centre on. We're looking to establish it likely next season, next spring probably."

   Windsor West NDP MP Brian Masse has been meeting with his U.S. counterparts to push the issue, particularly with Rep. Gary Peters of Oakland County. Masse also has gained the stamp of approval from Canadian customs officers.

   "I have confirmed with the customs union, they are open to having their processing done there on the American side," said Masse.

   "That would eliminate the necessity to build a customs facility on the Windsor side as you would have dual clearance on the Detroit side. It has been done a few other places."

   The Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority has already built a pavilion adjacent to the Renaissance Center for cruise ship visitors which could house both Canada and U.S. customs.

   Masse said he is preparing to send letters to Public Safety Minister Vic Toews and Transportation Minister Denis Lebel asking them to help pave the way for the ferry service.

   "So now we just have the next step and see if there's the will to move forward," said Masse.

   Gordon Orr, CEO of Tourism Windsor, Essex and Pelee Island, said the ferry service would be ideal for cyclists.

   "I think any time you increase the accessibility to a region it's a positive thing," said Orr.

   "I think that allowing passenger travel on ferry and bicycles included would also help the interest in cycle tourism. We have a number of trails to be enjoyed by cycle tourists and obviously this would eliminate the hassle of parking, crossing an international border at the tunnel or the bridge."

   Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis was unavailable for comment Thursday, but Olenik said the fact Windsor owns half of the tunnel and could see an impact on their revenues might be an obstacle.

   "The City of Windsor owns half of the tunnel, so I see that as an impediment," said Olenik.

   He said the operation would not be as complex as the ferry system in New York City, for example, and has to be given extra considerations because of the border.

   "Obviously when you're dealing with an international border it's more complex than starting out a water taxi service or some such thing, or an excursion vessel on the river," said Olenik.

   "We're making progress; it's a long-term thing we feel with a lot of upside and we will continue to pursue it to its natural conclusion.

   "This is not the Hudson River, it's an international border crossing and it is rife with issues that aren't faced elsewhere."