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Detroit River Ferry(Pilot Project)

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Pedestrian Ferry Pilot Project Moving Forward

A pilot project is in the works to run a pedestrian ferry that would connect Windsor and Detroit this fall.

Groups on both sides of the border are working together on the initiative, trying to bridge the gap in time for the Open Streets festivals in both communities this September.

Todd Scott, executive director of the Detroit Greenways Coalition, tells BlackburnNews.com a proposal is almost ready to be presented to customs officials.

“Similar to how things are done with the Detroit Marathon and the Bike the Bridge event, where you register for the ferry in advance, give us their passport information and they will get pre-cleared by customs,” says Scott. “It wouldn’t be a walk up and board the ferry situation.”

He admits it’s going to be a challenge to get everything rubber stamped in two months.

Initially Detroit wanted to coordinate its Open Streets festival with Windsor’s scheduled event. However, Scott says a conflict with the Detroit Lions home opener has pushed it back one week.

Open Streets Windsor takes place July 17 and September 18 from 9am to 1pm between Sandwich St. to Drouillard Rd. Detroit’s version is planned for September 25 and October 2.

The next steps include finalizing a budget with the Detroit Port Authority and meeting with customs officials on both sides of the border.

“The port authority is very interested in a ferry service, they have been for a long time,” says Scott. “They’ve actually been the champions on this and we’re just working with them to… make it happen.”

The Detroit Port Authority’s building along the river could accommodate customs officials to process visitors, he says. However, Windsor doesn’t have that same luxury. Some suggest reverse customs, where the Canadian Border Services Agency would operate on the American side.

There’s also talk of a using one of the existing tour boats to shuttle people back and forth.

Scott says they haven’t hit any roadblocks yet, but he imagines the biggest hurdle will be getting customs to sign off on the plan.

As it stands today, cyclists can’t cross on the Ambassador Bridge, through the tunnel or even put their bike on the tunnel bus — unless the rider disassembles the bike and puts it in a bag to bring on board. Transit Windsor says that’s due to licensing regulations relating to bike racks.

“Our friends across the river in the Detroit and Michigan area are committed to this project, they’re banging on our door, they want to come over,” says Lori Newton, executive director of Bike Windsor-Essex.

She thinks everyone in Windsor should be just as committed to get this project moving.

Some officials are pressing the government to include bike lanes on the new Gordie Howe International Bridge.

Those behind the pilot project say there’s been a lot of enthusiasm around the idea. They hope it will show there’s a demand, paving the wave for a more permanent ferry service in the future.


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