A new ferry in plans for Woodland crossing

By Lynn R. Parks

Following a mandate laid out in the recently-passed state bond bill for 2005, the state’s department of transportation is considering buying a new boat to replace the 43-year-old Woodland Ferry, which crosses the 600-foot expanse of the Nanticoke River west of Seaford. The state is also planning to rework the ramps that allow vehicles access to the ferry. Total cost would be about $800,000, said Curtis Cole, business manager for maintenance and operations for DelDOT. When it is operating, the ferry carries between 150 and 200 cars a day. But Cole said that the boat does not run about 40 percent of the time. About half of its down time is due to the weather and tides. At both high tide and low tide, the access ramps are at such an angle that cars have difficulty getting onto the boat. There is a 4-foot difference between high and low tides. The new ramps would be designed to move with the tides, so that access is easy at all times, Cole said. The other half of the ferry’s down time is due to maintenance problems. The state spends about $62,000 a year on unexpected maintenance; after its last inspection in 2000, the state had to put $64,000 into the boat to bring it up to Coast Guard standards. The 1990 inspection (the Coast Guard examines the ferry every five years) cost the state $200,000.
The ferry is scheduled for another Coast Guard inspection in August 2005. Cole said that the state hopes to have the new boat and ramps in place before that. Cole estimates the cost of a new boat, which will have to be built specifically for the ferry crossing, at about $500,000. Redoing the ramps will cost about $300,000, he said. Cole said that the new boat will be guided across the river by a cable, just as the current boat is. When the ferry was established in 1793 the boat was guided across the water by ropes and notched poles. The steel cable was installed in 1930. Power for the current boat is provided by a diesel engine. Cole said that the new boat will probably be diesel-powered too. The state fuels the boat with bio-diesel, which is 20 percent soy diesel. Mike Williams, community relations coordinator for DelDOT, said that the state considered putting a bridge at the crossing. That idea was discounted, he said. “We have no plans for a bridge there,” he added. “We want to keep the treasure that the ferry is. It is a lot more quaint and interesting than a steel and concrete bridge would be.”

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.