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New ferries could soon be crossing the Delaware Bay

Over the summer, the DRBA and Seattle-based KPFF Consulting Engineers started looking at ridership and what essential characteristics new ferries should have.

The ferry’s director of operations Heath Gehrke says the results of that work will guide what comes next, “We’re hoping that by the end of this year, we’ll have a (final) Master Plan Report and that will inform us and the public of the study that has been done and lead us into the design phase that will take the majority of next year. And right now we’re looking at three different concepts for a vessel fleet.”

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry fleet currently consists of 3 vessels which can all carry 100 vehicles and 800 passengers. The oldest, Motor Vessel Delaware, was built in 1974.

Gehrke notes that current options on the table include three 100-car ferries with reduced sized passenger areas - holding only 440-riders, three or four mid-sized vessels with 75-vehicle and 330-passenger capacities and five 55-car ferries with 240-passenger capacities, "So we’re taking a look at what we think we need to operate the service for the future, including some moderate growth. But we’re also looking for some moderate efficiencies and we’re also trying to become more green.”

Gehrke adds some new ferries would be powered by alternative energy - maybe batteries, along with some type of diesel propulsion hybrid.

He says none of the options are cheap. The least expensive is the five 55-car ferries at a cost of $225 million.

Residents can view the master plan by clicking here. And if you’d like to make comments on it, you can email or call (609) 889-7280.

Kelli Steele has over 30 years of experience covering news in Delaware, Baltimore, Winchester, Virginia, Phoenix, Arizona and San Diego, California.