Detroit port authority plans to trial international pedestrian ferry

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Windsor Star/Carolyn Thompson

There could be an international ferry shuttling passengers from downtown Windsor to Detroit this summer, if the Detroit Port Authority gets its way.

John Loftus, executive director of Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority, said he plans to run two trials of an international passenger ferry service: one during the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix weekend in May and another in August during a large convention.

The port authority received $2.4 million a few years ago from the U.S. government to set up domestic water taxis. Loftus said those will shuttle people between the Cobo Centre, the Renaissance Centre and Belle Isle over the two trial weekends.

Loftus hopes to run an international trial at the same time, to find out how much interest there is in the service and to fix the hitches before developing an official plan. Loftus said if the trial goes well, he plans to seek more funding from the U.S. government to set up a permanent service.

David Cree, president and CEO of the Windsor Port Authority, said there are still several hurdles despite encouraging meetings with the port authorities, government officials and border agencies.

“I think it’s possible, sure, if all the players fall into place,” Cree said of a May pilot project, adding that the biggest challenge is setting up customs and a docking location in downtown Windsor.

“It’s not just a ferry from point A to point B. You’re going to two different countries,” said Matt Marchand, president and CEO of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce. He said that while there remain hurdles that have come up before when trying to launch a passenger ferry, this time the project is starting with some of those problems solved.

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