Electric Ferry Network Planned for Region

By Cheryl Costello

The leaders of Annapolis and surrounding Anne Arundel County are pursuing a new mode of transportation around the often-gridlocked waterfront area—an electric ferry line.

Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley and County Executive Steuart Pittman envision an alternative to the Spa Creek Bridge to and from Eastport, and even an expansion to other public ferry landings. Bay Bulletin caught up with the mayor as he checked out an electric boat model on display during October’s U.S. Powerboat Show.

Buckley envisions the future of downtown Annapolis transportation and it includes taking your bike onto an electric ferry. He wants us to be able to take the ferry to different stops from City Dock to Eastport.

During the Annapolis Boat Shows in October, he took a test ride on a 100 percent electric boat made in Sweden. “It has no transom, so you can roll on and roll off with a bike or scooter or skateboard,” he demonstrated with his own bike. We met him in Eastport.

“This would be the 5th Street ferry,” he showed us. “The 5th Street ferry would leave from 5th Street in Eastport and it would go to Burtis House at City Dock—a new reimagined City Dock where we are going to raise the dock 5-6 feet.”

The electric ferry concept is just one part of Buckley’s plan for a revamped City Dock. State Senator Sarah Elfreth also got a ride on the electric boat, and so did Capt. John Martino, founder of the Annapolis School of Seamanship, CBM Bay Weekly’s sister company.

The School of Seamanship hopes to provide captains for the ferry line—earning them valuable experience on the water. “We would be utilizing this platform to build sea hours for people who are looking to build a career—youngsters who are looking to start a career in the marine trades,” says Martino.

Beyond the city of Annapolis, County Executive Steuart Pittman sees an opportunity for a whole network of these alternative transportation modes. “Electric ferries are the way of the future,” he proclaims.

Pittman says he started talking about electric ferry use when a possible third span of the Bay Bridge was being debated. “There will be multiple sites, and there’s no better way to connect those tourists than by water. That gets cars off the road and it makes the experience a water experience.”

A possible stop for a countywide electric ferry? Holly Beach Farm, a privately owned property south of the Bay Bridge on the Anne Arundel side. It’s currently owned by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, but the National Park Trust has proposed taking over management or ownership of the land. The location is part of the push for a National Recreation Area, which could bring federal dollars to provide better water access to the Bay.

Pittman has also talked to leaders in Baltimore about possibly extending the ferries even further. That’s a long-term plan, but in the nearer future, Pittman says the concept would likely get started in Annapolis.

“It will be a free ferry and you get to that ferry on a free trolley,” Buckley says. He even thinks the Annapolis Harbormaster could use the electric boats.

And Capt. Martino sees the potential for boosting the marine trades industry. “I really like this as a pipeline to train new captains,” he says.

City and county leaders say to pull the idea off, the ferry service would need multiple funding sources. “I think anybody who’s not thinking long term about that kind of transportation is missing the boat,” says Pittman.