Resolution passed to back ferry project

Ogdensburg City Council passed a resolution Monday supporting pedestrian/bicycle ferry pilot project with the town of Prescott, Ontario. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

OGDENSBURG — Former Ontario Sen. Robert W. Runciman accompanied a delegation of representatives from the town of Prescott, Ont., to Monday night’s Ogdensburg City Council meeting.

Mr. Runciman was there to talk about his support for a bicycle ferry pilot program between Prescott and Ogdensburg.

“Bob is sort of the initiator of this great idea,” Prescott Mayor Brett Todd said when he introduced Mr. Runciman.

“We’re very upbeat and optimistic about this effort,” Mr. Runciman said. “We’ve worked long and hard at it. We have a feasibility study that’s given us a lot of good direction on how to approach this.”

The border control agencies on both sides have indicated, Mr. Runciman said, that they are open to at least a pilot project at no cost for their services.

On the Canadian side, Mr. Runciman said, the tourism arms of the river municipalities are all ready to become partners in a marketing campaign and that money has been set aside to pave shoulders to make the cycling experience more inviting and safer.

“We think this has a great chance at success,” Mr. Runciman said. “We just have to get it into operation and promoted as thoroughly and widely as we can.”

The feasibility study, Mr. Todd said, showed a great deal of enthusiasm for the project on both sides of the border, particularly among tourism groups and agencies and cycling communities.

Border requirements, he said are the one key obstacle to be tackled.

“The regulatory issues there are well known,” Mr. Todd said. “Especially since 911, it has kind of thickened up a little bit.”

There has been a real political effort on both sides of the border to come to a solution, Mr. Todd said, which has resulted in the border agencies agreeing to conducting the pilot year at no charge.

It’s proposed that the pilot project will run on three weekends this summer, Mr. Todd said.

“At the request of the border agencies and also to provide a better reflection of demand, we are looking at non-holiday weekends,” Mr. Todd said. “We might suggest some dates that might work well with cycling agencies in the area and others that might work well with certain events, but to stay away from the big holidays.”

If the ferry carries about 25 people and runs for eight hours each day, a total of 400 people would cross — 200 in each direction,” Mr. Todd said.

“So at the end of the day, a break-even analysis would suggest that the one-way ferry crossing would cost between $5 and $10,” Mr. Todd said. “It’s a reasonable amount of money.”

A potential operator has been identified, Mr. Todd said, but there is not final agreement and no arrangements have been made.

There are four steps left to get the pilot program launched Mr. Todd said. They are: making a commitment, selecting dates, getting a formal agreement from border agencies and securing a boat operator.

Ogdensburg City Manager Sarah Purdy said she would have details for council members to study and discuss at the next council meeting on Feb. 24.

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St. Lawrence/Franklin County Editor

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