Detroit River Ferries Plan to Sail Once Again

The LaSalle ferry boat leaving its slip in Windsor 1937- Southwest Ontario Digital Archive
The LaSalle ferry boat leaving its slip in Windsor 1937- Southwest Ontario Digital Archive

There could soon be ferries plying the Detroit river again as early as this summer. The Detroit Port Authority plans to run two trials of an international ferry service on two weekends this summer. One will be during the Belle Isle Grand Prix and another will run in August during a large convention happening at Cobo Center.

The US Government allotted $2.4 million to the port authority some years ago to fund a passenger ferry service moving people from Downtown Detroit to Belle Isle. A trial of an international ferry service will be conducted at the same time.

Before the construction of the Ambassador Bridge, and the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel, everything was shuttled back and forth across the river on ferry boats. One of the images that became synonymous with Detroit and Windsor was the river filled with ferries of all shapes and sizes taking people up and down the river and into the rest of the Great Lakes. However the construction of the bridge and two tunnels made the ferries largely obsolete and by 1938, the last ferry left its slip in Windsor.

Attempts have been made to revive a passenger ferry service in the past have been largely unsuccessful, but David Cree, CEO of the Windsor Port Authority; believes this latest attempt has a shot at success. Canada Border Services Agency has confirmed that it would be willing to staff a customs terminal. The funding for this project would likely come out of the fares from the ferry itself. Additionally a new customs deal between Canada and the US allows border guards from both sides to screen travellers from either Canada or the US at all crossings. This could allow Canadian customs to use the existing Detroit Port Authority Facilities already constructed.

Anyone who has been caught in the horrific traffic at either border crossing whenever there is any kind of sporting event would welcome any alternative mode of transportation across the river. Officials on both sides of the river have expressed interest in this project from Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, to New Democrat Member of Parliament, Brian Masse.

Hopefully in the foreseeable future one will be able to hop on a ferry at the foot of Ouellette, travel across the river and get on the M-1 Rail line to catch a hockey game at the Red Wings Stadium in Brush Park.

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