Growing frustration over continued Woodland Ferry service outage

The Tina Fallon has been out of service since November of last year. (DNREC photo)

WOODLAND — Two state legislators — Republican state Reps. Tim Dukes of Laurel and Danny Short of Seaford — are joining a growing number of constituents in expressing frustration over the continued lack of progress in returning the Woodland Ferry to service.

Operated by the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), the historic ferry transports vehicles and passengers across the Nanticoke River from landings located about four miles southwest of Seaford and five miles northwest of Laurel. The loss of the service forces motorists needing to cross the waterway to use bridges in Seaford or Sharptown, Maryland.

The 65-foot ferry “Tina Fallon” was taken out-of-service in mid-November for scheduled maintenance, the replacement of its engine, and a mandatory Coast Guard inspection. The vessel was transported to a Baltimore-based contractor so the work could be performed, according to information provided by Rep. Dukes.

The service was expected to resume in late April.

When that did not occur, and after repeated inquiries from the office of Reps. Dukes and Short, DelDOT issued the following 58-word statement on May 7: “Due to additional repairs of the ferry, the Delaware Department of Transportation announces that the Woodland Ferry will be out-of-service until this summer. We understand that the loss of the ferry service is an inconvenience to residents. The goal of the Department is to have the ferry run safely without further interruption for the next five years.”

Friday, DelDOT officials belatedly released further details. According to Rep. Dukes, when the vessel was delivered back to Woodland by the contractor, the new engine was found to be flooded with saltwater. Since the contractor was responsible for the ferry when the flooding occurred, DelDOT maintains that the contractor is liable for any testing, replacement and necessary repairs.

The contractor has visited the ferry with its insurance adjuster, he said, and is determining a path forward for proper repairs/replacement.

The cost of dropping the case, releasing the contractor from responsibility, and replacing the engine using another vendor, would be approximately $231,000, he added.

“A DelDOT engineer has told me he believes citizens should be patient and let the process play out,” said Rep. Short, who has more than three decades working in the insurance business. “I believe the more than 200 motorists that use the ferry daily have been patient long enough. I would like to see the ferry repaired as soon as possible, with DelDOT then filing legal action against the original contractor to recover the costs.”

The indefinite timetable for the Woodland Ferry to be out of service comes with DelDOT’s announcement this week that the bridge over the Nanticoke River linking Blades and Seaford will be closed for maintenance work and repairs from mid-June into late August.

DelDOT’s projected bridge closure is from 7 a.m. June 17 until 11 p.m. Aug. 24, pending weather.

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