Pedestrian Ferry ‘Extremely Unlikely’ In September

A windy day along the Detroit River, November 12, 2015. (Photo by Jason Viau)

A passenger ferry between Windsor and Detroit appears to be in rough waters as U.S. customs officials say it’s “extremely unlikely” to happen in September.

Earlier this month first told you about a pedestrian ferry pilot project that’s in the works, spearheaded by a group in Detroit.

Organizers of the Open Streets Festivals in both Windsor and Detroit this September were hoping to have the service operational. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in an email a formal business case has not yet been presented.

“It would be extremely unlikely at this point in the year,” the statement read.

Completing an “adequate facility” and business case also hasn’t gone through the CBP.

For the last five years Windsor West MP Brian Masse says he’s been pushing for a ferry on the Detroit River.

“We just need to work out for the future logistics related to customs officials, which I’ve had a union vice-president in town in the past to look at the facilities on the Detroit side,” says Masse. “I believe co-customs can facilitate there.”

U.S. customs says there is no current agreement that would allow Canadian border officers to process passengers in the U.S.

Some have suggested the Detroit Port Authority building be used as the designated spot for visitors to be cleared. But the CBP remains firm that “there is not a completed building on the U.S. side.”

The Canada Border Services Agency also says it has not received any formal application for a new ferry service.

An appropriate facility to question, detain and process the public is something the CBSA requires before it can proceed. It’s also the operator’s responsibility to front the fees where a CBSA service didn’t previously exist.

Todd Scott with the Detroit Greenways Coalition has said a budget is being developed with the Detroit Port Authority for a new ferry service. He admits it will be a challenge to get everything approved in less than two months.

This potential new connection across the river attracts tourists, creates jobs and better connects two communities, Masse says.

“Especially with the cycling industry that’s really developing and the culture of Detroit. Soon we’ll have a brand new hockey arena down in Detroit,” says Masse. “I think it’s time we started experiencing those elements through a passenger ferry and also on the Canadian side with gaming, access to Erie St. and downtown Windsor.”