Charles Considers Water Taxis

The proposed water taxi, for now slated for National Harbor-Alexandria service. Charles County would like to extend the service to Indian Head.
The proposed water taxi, for now slated for National Harbor-Alexandria service. Charles County would like to extend the service to Indian Head. (Potomac Riverboat Co.)
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 19, 2007

Charles County officials are in early discussions with a company to provide water taxi service along the Potomac River that would ferry passengers from the Indian Head area to spots in Northern Virginia and the District, Charles officials said this week.

The county is trying to capitalize on opportunities presented by National Harbor, the massive waterfront development under construction in Prince George's County near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Last week, the Potomac Riverboat Co. announced it would run daily water taxi service between National Harbor and Old Town Alexandria.

Charles officials said they are in talks with that company to extend service to the Indian Head area, which would open the first commercial riverboat service in the county since such vessels brought visitors to an amusement park that operated at Marshall Hall into the 1960s.

"We've opened up a fact-finding with that company," Charles County Economic Development Director John Reardon said.

The discussions began a few weeks ago, and county and company officials cautioned that it could be months before they reach a conclusion about boat service to Charles.

"This is really sort of the very beginning. There's not a lot here yet other than we're talking," said Willem Polak, president of the riverboat company, which is based in Alexandria and has been operating on the Potomac for more than 30 years.

Charles officials said they envision riverboat service from either Indian Head or Marshall Hall to several points north: Mount Vernon, Fort Belvoir, National Harbor, Old Town Alexandria and the District.

The water taxi service, as envisioned, would be for passengers only and would not carry vehicles. Commuters would drive to a park-and-ride lot and take a bus to a docking terminal along the Potomac and then board the boat. Or they would drive directly to the docking terminal and park there, Commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) said.

Of particular interest to Charles officials is a link to Fort Belvoir, the Army installation across the Potomac in Fairfax County. The base is expecting an infusion of 21,000 personnel by 2011 as a result of the most recent base realignment and closure process. Charles County officials said a water taxi link to Fort Belvoir would make the new jobs on the base more appealing for Charles residents.

"We've got a lot of people here that would love to have quality jobs," Cooper said.

Reardon said "the possibility of Charles County residents having an easier commute to Fort Belvoir or a couple of technology centers" in Fairfax would be a boon for residents of Charles.

"It allows a fluid movement of labor and professionals," Reardon said.

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