County evaluating future of Canby Ferry service
A feasibility analysis of whether to continue or discontinue service of the Canby Ferry is currently underway at Clackamas County's Department of Transportation and Development Services.
The study, scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, aims to identify whether or not to continue service of the fair, as well as the potential financial and traffic impacts of constructing a bridge across the Willamette River at the location of the Canby Ferry.
According to Clackamas County Transportation Planner Steve Williams, there are six options on the table. Currently the Canby Ferry — one of only three operating river ferries left in Oregon — only operates about 250 days a year with weather, water level and several other factors playing a role in service.
According to data collected by Clackamas County, the ferry averages about 15,000 trips carrying 53,000 vehicles (including bicycles and pedestrians) per year.
That equates to around 212 cars per day; a drop in the bucket, Williams explains, when you compare that to traffic on a residential street at around a few thousands cars per day.
Williams also confirmed the ferry operates at a loss of about $300,000 to $400,000 a year, and maintenance of the ferry shuts it down every so often for a week or two at a time.
"We've just started our public input process. We have an online questionnaire that... has about 225 responses," Williams said. "The responses are all over the place. There are those who say the ferry is great, we should keep it even operating at a loss. There are others who say the opposite, that it's a complete waste of money that hardly serves anybody. Then there are those for and against a bridge or toll bridge, as well as all other kinds of issues."
Williams said he hopes the picture becomes clearer when his department hosts a public listening session in June.
The study surrounding the viability of the ferry and a potential bridge comes as Wilsonville contemplates a new bridge of its own, the French Prairie Bridge, which would service pedestrians, bicyclists and emergency vehicles on the city's west side.
In Wilsonville, Community Development Director and City Engineer Nancy Kraushaar explains the City has yet to hold an official discussion or take a position on the potential closure of the Canby Ferry and construction of a bridge.
"We were briefed by Clackamas County staff and our position was to wait and see what the study says," Kraushaar said. "The location where the ferry is located is not particularly convenient to Wilsonville because you have to take some country roads that have steep slopes for a cyclist."
We favor the French Prairie Bridge location because it's a direct connection from our regional Tonquin trail down into the French Prairie area, Willamette Scenic Bikeway area and down into Champoeg," Kraushaar said.
"Through conversations I've heard, putting a bridge in could be very expensive. I think that's one of the things the county is weighing — comparing the cost of the ferry over 20-30-40 years versus the cost of a bridge.
"Also, if you really open that to make car traffic more easily accessible and reliable, what does that mean for the farmland and that rural areas that surround it?"
All of these questions and more are hoped to be answered by the study. Williams urges all members of the public with a vested interest in the future of the Canby Ferry or a potential bridge to come out to the public information session June 13.
"The purpose of this study is to provide information to the board (of commissioners) and to the public, so when the day comes to make that decision, everyone is fully informed," Williams said.
For more information regarding the Canby Ferry alternatives visit the county's website at http://www.clackamas.us/transportation/cfalternatives.html. To view the county's feasibility questionnaire visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CFerryStudy.