Woodland ferry could be up and running – maybe

The closed sign has been in place at the Woodland ferry since December. BY RON MACARTHUR
May 26, 2011

It appears a resolution has been reached to get the Tina Fallon back in service sometime around the beginning of summer – maybe. The Woodland ferry has been out of commission with thruster problems since early December 2010.

In a May 23 letter to the Woodland Ferry Association, Geoff Sundstrom, deputy director of public relations for the Delaware Department of Transportation, said a definite return to service date has not been set, but a deadline of June 4 is not possible. “We are making every concerted effort to do so as soon as possible,” he said.

June 4 was a deadline imposed on the ferry’s return by Rep. Dan Short of Seaford. The date coincides with a memorial service for Fallon, the former legislator and teacher who passed away at the age of 92 in California back in February.

On May 4, DelDOT officials met to discuss possible solutions to the thruster problems presented by Thrustmaster of Texas. At the meeting were representatives from NDI Engineering, Chesapeake Shipbuilding, George & Lynch and Meadows Hydraulics.

Sundstrom said all parties agreed to Thrustmaster’s findings and to proceed with repairs.

Captains stopped operating the ferry when they noticed hydraulic oil leaking from the thrusters.

The former ferry, Virginia C, took its last trips across the Nanticoke on Dec. 31, 2007. It was replaced with a larger, $931,000 ferry. New docks, lighting, permits, site work and security cameras drove the total cost of the project to $2.2 million.

The thrusters have to be sent to Texas for new shafts to be installed, and DelDOT will receive an independent analysis of the hydraulic design. After the work is completed, the ferry must still undergo a U.S. Coast Guard inspection before getting back into service. The cost of the repairs is being borne by general contractor George & Lynch,  Sundstrom wrote in the letter. He did not say how much the repairs will cost.

Because of ongoing problems, people who use the ferry as a legitimate shortcut between Seaford, Laurel and Bethel have grown accustomed to not count on the ferry. Mechanical problems and low-tide issues caused frequent closings of the Virginia C. It’s no doubt ferry users have become very cynical when a state official says anything concerning the ferry, especially when a new ferry sits at the dock.

  • Ron MacArthur has lived and worked in Sussex County all his life. As a journalist for more than 40 years, he has covered everything from county and town meetings to presidential visits. He also has a unique perspective having served as an elected official and lived on both sides of the county.

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