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Jan. 18, 2020 | Saturday
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$25 ferry service proposed between NOTL and Toronto
A sketch of a proposed 80-passenger hovercraft. (Supplied)

Niagara-on-the-Lake residents could soon have a new, fast way of getting to Toronto for only $25 – via a ferry.

Lake Ontario Express president Bruno Caciagli asked town council Monday night to add NOTL as a terminal for a Waterlink Ferry Service that would connect the lower Niagara Peninsula – including NOTL, Port Dalhousie and Beacon Harbour – with Toronto.

What makes Caciagli’s project different from other ferry services that have been proposed and failed to receive approval is he wants to integrate his service with Metrolinx, the provincial transit authority. Caciagli doesn’t want to compete with local transit services, he said.

“Any type of ferry service has to be co-ordinated with the land transportation system, with the train, with buses,” Caciagli said. “It cannot exist by itself.”

The passenger-only service would help commuters avoid traffic on QEW, save time, and reduce travel costs and levels of CO2, said Caciagli, who has been working on the project since 2014.

The idea is to use Navy Hall’s docks for arrivals and departures of two 80-passenger vessels. These ferries, such as hovercraft or catamaran, would make 14 crossings a day and are predicted to serve a total of 2,100 passengers daily.

The cost of a one-way ticket would be $25. Crossings would be seven days a week, year-round, weather-permitting.

In a 7 to 2 vote, council approved the project in principle, subject to Parks Canada’s also approving it. Couns. Clare Cameron and Erwin Wiens voted against it.

A fast ferry can cover a 50-kilometre distance in about 40 to 45 minutes, Caciagli said. The vessels would be powered by a hydrogen fuel cell or a diesel engine with hydrogen injection in efforts to minimize emissions.

Arrivals and departures would be co-ordinated with local transit services. Caciagli said he’d also like to have the service running by April 2021 before the start of the Canada Summer Games, which will take place in Niagara in August 2021.

Caciagli, who already pitched the idea to the previous council in 2017, said the project also needs approvals from the City of Toronto for a dedicated dock in the Inner Harbour, as well as from Parks Canada, which owns the pier at Navy Hall.

“If Toronto says no, there will be no project, that’s it. You will never see me again,” Caciagli told councillors Monday.

Coun. Gary Burroughs said the service would be a great benefit to the town and he would support it, but he was concerned as there was not sufficient parking at Navy Hall. Caciagli said there would be off-site parking for passengers.

Cameron said she was dubious and couldn’t support the project without having Parks Canada on hand.

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