Update: Loudoun Supervisors Prepare for the Potomac River Ferry Study on November 16 | New
In hopes of providing relief to commuters, a 137-page study of the Potomac River Ferry that connects Loudoun County to Montgomery County in Maryland is due for review by the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, according to a November 10 press release.
White’s Ferry, the ferry system, has been closed for nearly a year following a broken ferry cable and a Virginia Circuit Court notice in a private lawsuit over the use of private land for disembarking from the ferry in Virginia.
Since then, the owners of the ferry system and the Virginia landing have been at odds over the future of the operation.
The study, for which both counties have contributed funding, will provide an assessment of the land ownership and acquisition scenarios for the Virginia landing, as well as the short- and long-term possibilities of resuming ferry service.
The study said restarting the ferry service would require minimal, low-cost actions in the short term, the statement said. The measures include inspecting the existing vessel to confirm seaworthiness, hiring personnel and securing the ferry cable.
Long-term, the release says changes in infrastructure, including improvements to staffing, road improvements to support queued vehicles, fare collection, lighting and vessel capacity could be considered to improve system capacity.
Restoring ferry service is expected to save more than $ 1 million in travel time by 2023 and more than $ 1.7 million per year in travel time savings by 2040, study says for drivers. The change in the number of kilometers traveled by vehicles with the restoration of ferry service will also lead to lower automobile emissions rates in the region.
The owners of White’s Ferry, Chuck Kuhn and his wife Stacey, pressured local leaders, especially in Virginia, to take control of the landing through a prominent domain, which would give control of the disembarkation at the county and allow the ferry to resume operations.
Chuck Kuhn said in August at a community meeting in Poolesville, Md., That he was committed to reopening ferry service by next summer to help commuters and businesses on both sides of River.
“We appreciate the work and ideas of the recent Montgomery and Loudoun County Joint Study,” Chuck Kuhn said in a prepared statement. “It underscores the importance of White’s Ferry to the region and also reveals the difficulties in maintaining and making the ferry a successful private business, as previous owners have acknowledged.
Chuck Kuhn said the ferry is a scenic crossing, but also an important connection that helps employees get to work and contributes to the economy in many other ways.
“The stalemate cost people time and money and added traffic and environmental problems to our community,” he said. “We are looking to the counties to help us move forward and support the direction they feel is best for White’s Ferry to work for our region.”
Libby Devlin, Virginia Landing Director and Director of Rockland Farm LLC., Was not invited to the forum. She told the Times Mirror that Rockland Farm LLC, which has voiced opposition to their land being seized by a prominent estate, has made numerous pleas to the Kuhns in an attempt to break the deadlock.
“We look forward to sharing our thoughts with the county after having had a thorough review of the study, which was released last night,” Devlin said in an email to The Times-Mirror.
“We continue to urge the county to take the eminent domain off the table so that the ferry owner can work with us to find a way forward,” she said. “We hope we can use the results of the study to find a fair solution for everyone, which may include one of the many offers we have already made to the counties and the ferry owner to restore service without delay.” The study did not recommend a preferred route to resolve the relationship between ferry owners and disembarkation. However, a successful resolution remains an open question.
Depending on the ultimate operator / landowner scenario chosen, there could be additional tax impacts on counties in the form of property acquisition costs, if necessary, and associated long-term capital improvements. landings on both sides of the river, according to a staff report dated Nov. 16.
A restored state-owned and privately-operated ferry service would be close to a balancing act, the report said. Capital expenditures for the first five years of operation would average about $ 50,000 per year. Public investment costs are not expected to be incurred for the restoration of the service unless a public ownership acquisition scenario is considered.
Additionally, county staff said the study showed that a restored, state-owned and operated ferry service would require a public subsidy of nearly $ 3 million per year.
The ferry eased some of the congestion on Route 15, which sees around 26,000 to 27,000 cars per day before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to supervisor Caleb Kershner (R-Catoctin), who represents the area that includes landing in Virginia.
He added that Route 15 was only designed to handle around 12,000 cars per day.
White’s Ferry carried around 600 to 800 vehicles a day across the river and connected cyclists and pedestrians between the two counties before the closure, the statement said.