Ferry applies for federal funds to become public transit along Willamette River in Portland

Published: Apr. 20, 2023 at 4:38 PM PDT
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Frog Ferry, a passenger ferry, is trying to make a case to receive some federal money to help their dream of public transportation along the Willamette River.

“There are very few access points to even get down on the water,” says Frog Ferry Founder, Susan Bladholm. “We want to draw people down to the waterfront.”

Whether you’re a student at Portland State, commuting to work or just visiting, you can take a 25-minute ferry ride. But first, they need the funds. It’s an 11-million-dollar project, and Frog Ferry is asking the Portland City Council to partner on a federal grant application.

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“Asking city council to adopt that, to put us in the regional transportation plan on the constrain list. We must be on that list in order to take receipt of federal funds,” says Bladholm.

If granted, Frog Ferry is asking for $6 million. Those funds would go toward building the docks, the boat and a year’s worth of operating costs. But getting local government support has been a battle for years. Last year, Tri-met claimed Frog Ferry had inappropriate spending and billing practices. Tri-met only approved a portion of their total expenses and ended their contract with Frog Ferry in 2022.

“We’ve heard from our civic leader, saying we’re just worried about risk and trying anything new that might fail, and our pushback is this is a proven best practice the money is there the studies have been done,” says Bladholm.

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To start, the route would go from the River Place dock to Cathedral Park, with hopes to add more stops from Vancouver to Oregon City in the future.

The first vessel will carry up to 70 passengers with a ticket price of $3.50. They hope to add more vessels over time carrying up to 100 passengers.

“Were just offering up a small, but we think a really meaningful, inspirational project to help build a better and equitable future for the city of Portland,” says Bladholm.

If the city council approves, they can apply for the federal grant in June, be approved in 2024, and have the first Frog Ferry on the water in 2025.