- The Washington Times - Monday, December 30, 2002

CRISFIELD, Md. (AP) Chesapeake Bay ferry supporters must wait a little longer to learn whether the state will build a port in Somerset County to link one of the state's poorest regions with jobs and other opportunities on the more-prosperous western shore.
The Maryland Department of Transportation feasibility study was supposed to be completed by the end of the year, but agency spokesman Richard Scher said last week the earliest completion date would be late spring or early summer.
The port, slated for Crisfield or Deal Island, would harbor a fast-speed ferry that also would save hours in driving time.
The proposed ferry offers hope for the declining Crisfield, once billing itself as the "seafood capital of the world."
A bill to help pay for a ferry to St. Mary's County failed to pass in the General Assembly last year, in part because county officials did not want it. Since then, Somerset County lawmakers have talked with entrepreneurs about a private venture. Area business leaders, including those in the poultry industry, also are interested because it could reduce the cost and time of shipping their products.
The $178,000 study has winnowed the number of potential port sites from 59 to 16. Other Eastern Shore sites include Oxford and St. Michaels in Talbot County; and Cambridge, Hoopersville and Honga in Dorchester County. Officials said one of the next steps is to create a short list of one or two on each side.
The study focuses on two aspects: whether a ferry is feasible and the best location for a port. It also will measure roadway access, water depth and environmental issues.
Delegate-elect Page Elmore, Somerset County Republican, said he was committed to establishing ferry service between Crisfield and Reedville, Va., where elected officials have given approval.
Mr. Elmore said his priority in January is to introduce a legislative bill that would give Somerset County the authority to grant a franchise to a ferry operator for a Crisfield-Reedville route.

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