Washington's Georgetown neighborhood has trolleys that aren't really trolleys. So we've set a precedent for Norfolk, which soon will have a sidewheel ferryboat that isn't a steamboat. Like our trolleys, it should be fun to ride, so who's to complain?
Mayors Vincent J. Thomas of Norfolk and J.E. Johansen of nearby Portsmouth have announced that, starting in May, ferry service will be revived between their two cities. The service began in 1636 but was abandoned after a road tunnel was opened in the 1950s beneath the Elizabeth River.
Service will be operated with a brand new 1800s-style boat, now under construction, that will resemble old-time paddlewheelers, down to and including wooden floors and an antique (but phony) brass boiler. But it will be operated by a cheap-to-run, battery-powered propulsion system.
The boat, to be christened the City of Portsmouth, was designed by James E. Bradley Jr., who created the popular "Rhine River" cruise boats at Busch Gardens, near Williamsburg.
The ferry will connect the Rouse Co.'s new Waterside development in Norfolk with Portsmouth's historic but (to me) too cutely named Olde Towne waterfront district. Officials hope that the boat will lure tourists both to itself and to the two pierside terminal areas.
The initial fare will be 25 cents. Service, to run from May through November, will be subsidized by a grant from the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation to the Tidewater Regional Transit District.