Firm hired to explore next generation Cape May-Lewes ferry

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TheDelaware River and Bay Authority retained a naval architecture/engineering firm to study its ferries’ next generation.

Seattle-based Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG) will provide planning and analysis that will lead to the design concept for The DRBA’s Cape May-Lewes Ferry.

During the initial phase, EBDG’s primary assignment will be to review, revise, and redevelop the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Marine Master Plan, last produced in 2008. The plan will be developed in coordination with DRBA staff representatives, staff, and stakeholders.

“EBDG’s first task is to analyze the findings and results of the 2008 Marine Master Plan, conduct a thorough assessment of our existing ferry vessels, and provide an evaluation of future vessel needs,” said Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations. “When completed, this new planning document – including the conceptual design of a new vessel, will guide our future decision-making process. Our goal is to improve service and reduce operating costs while laying the foundation for sustainable ferry operations for the next generation of our customers.”

The EBDG team will also analyze various vessel characteristics, including smaller sizes, faster vessels, alternate propulsion systems, and environmentally friendly considerations (alternative fuels, hybrids, etc.) and how proposed designs work with existing shore side infrastructure. The review will also provide associated costs as well as the advantages and disadvantages of various options.

Additional phases of work may include developing final design parameters for new CMLF vessel or vessels, producing a detailed design package for use in soliciting competitive bids from shipyards to construct a new ferry, and overseeing and managing the shipyard’s construction.

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry, like similar operations, loses money. The DRBA has worked to cut red ink while maintaining service.

In the meantime, the pressure is building for vessels with fewer emissions. In Norway, battery-powered ferries have been in use for years. The DRBA received a federal grant for powering its ferries with cleaner Diesel technology.

The DRBA derives much of its revenue from Delaware Memorial Bridge tolls. The authority also operates airports in Delaware and New Jersey.

Previous studies have indicated that other crossing options, such as a tunnel, are too expensive.

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