By Erich Wagner (Photo/Erich Wagner)
A Potomac Riverboat Co. boat plotted a new course last week, casting off from Old Town on its maiden voyage to the National Mall.
Willem Polak, owner of the local ferry service, said the route is three years in the making. After getting approval from the National Park Service last year, the company convinced authorities in the Port City to give them the go-ahead just last month.
“It’s a great way to get back and forth,” he said, describing the route, which lets passengers disembark near the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. “You don’t need your car and it’s about a 40 minute ride that drops you right at the heart of the mall.”
The trip lasts anywhere from half an hour to 45 minutes, depending on water traffic and the tides, and features views of the Reagan National Airport, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, Washington Monument and Thomas Jefferson Memorial.
Patricia Washington, president and CEO of the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association, said the route helps position the Port City as a jumping off point for tourists exploring the metropolitan area.
“We want to promote Alexandria as a great place to stay for your American vacation to the D.C. area,” Washington said. “Both sides of the river have important historic sites.”
Still, nothing is set in stone. Potomac Riverboat Co. officials described the route’s inaugural year as a pilot program of sorts, meant to prove the line’s viability to the National Park Service.
If the feds agree, company officials hope they will build a dock near the monuments. For the time being, ferry operators will maneuver the nose of the boat into the sea wall so passengers can step off onto terra firma in Washington.
Officials are confident the route — combined with rapid redevelopment along the Alexandria waterfront — will increase ridership for the company, which already boasts an annual ridership of 200,000 people. And a boost in passengers hopefully means a bump in tourism spending in the Port City.
“With all of the connectivity already in place, every enhancement to the waterfront means more reasons for people to come here, stay longer and do more things,” Washington said. “And it’s just another fun way to access the National Mall.”
Tickets for the National Mall water taxi are $28 for a round trip and $14 one-way for adults, with discounted rates for children under 12. For information on schedules or to reserve tickets, visit www. potomacriverboatco.com.