Instead of sitting in Route 1 peak summertime bumper-to-bumper traffic between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, imagine instead leisurely floating along the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, yet still arriving at one's destination.
That's the vision of proponents of a water taxi linking the two resort towns.
“I think it’s a really exciting proposal. This would be a blue trail,” said Mark Carter, treasurer of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal Improvement Association.
Association members, represented by beach-area municipalities, businesses, chambers of commerce and others, have been working on the water taxi idea for nearly two years.
Carter said Sam Calagione, Dogfish Head Brewery owner, came up with the idea a couple years ago. Carter is employed by the brewery as its event czar.
He said the brewery has used the canal for private trips and, because of an arrangement with a local hotel, has permission to use a private dock.
Carter said there are no public docking accommodations on the canal between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
He said Lewes’ City Dock is perfect for a water taxi, but Rehoboth Beach doesn’t a have a canal-front dock.
The proposal is to develop a dock on the canal behind the Rehoboth Beach Museum. “We’re looking at that as a pickup and drop-off spot,” Carter said.
He said last year, the association received a $25,000 grant from the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The money will be used for a feasibility study to be conducted by Dover-based Landscape Architectural Services and RK&K, a Baltimore-based consulting engineering firm.
He said the study is examining whether a dock would work and be permitted as proposed and to determine proposed alternate sites.
To reduce maintenance, the proposed dock would be built using minimal lumber. The dock approach would feature grassy areas, pervious pavers, trees, shrubs and hardscaping.
Carter said the feasibility study should be complete before next spring. If the project were deemed viable, the group would begin a fundraising campaign to obtain an estimated $750,000 to $1 million needed to fund it.
He said it might be possible to create a link between Gordons Pond and the canal, and the taxi’s route might also be extended to Dewey Beach.
Carter said for now, the water taxi’s proposed route wouldn’t stop between points. He said the group has not discussed whether it would be possible to add a stop for outlet shopping.
Carter said the water taxi would be a “liquid transportation route,” serving as an alternative to Route 1 for local residents and tourists.
He said hybrid solar-electric and gas-powered pontoons would transport 30 to 40 people along the canal. The water taxi’s hybrid technology would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The boat’s motor would be primarily powered by electricity and would switch to gasoline only when necessary, Carter said.
“We’ve received a lot of positive feedback about the water taxi itself from municipalities and individuals,” Carter said.
The association has looked at water taxi services operating on the Christina River in Wilmington, in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and a few locations in Florida.
“We’re looking for some that are operating in small municipalities,” he said.