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Water taxis to ferry hundreds across Potomac for inauguration

  • Story Highlights
  • Up to 3,200 passengers to be taken across Potomac on seven boats
  • Service is partially a response to the closure of all bridges from Virginia to D.C.
  • Potomac Riverboat Company clears security to provide service
  • All passengers must arrive at least an hour early for a full screening
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From Mary Grace Lucas
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- While nearly all maritime activity on the Potomac River will be halted on Inauguration Day, a handful of Mall-goers will sail from Virginia to Washington on water taxis.

Some people will cross the Potomac River via water taxi on Inauguration Day.

Some people will cross the Potomac River via water taxi on Inauguration Day.

Working closely with the United States Coast Guard, the Potomac Riverboat Company, based in Alexandria, Virginia, plans to ferry up to 3,200 passengers from across the frigid Potomac on seven climate-controlled boats.

The service is partially a response to the closure of all bridges from Virginia to D.C. on Inauguration Day, a measure that prompted an uproar among Virginia residents.

According to maritime authorities in charge of the region, PRC is the only company being allowed to taxi across the river on the 20th.

"Because the taxi service provided us with a security plan that we examined and deemed adequate to provide good security, I granted them a waiver to operate at an increased security level," National Capitol Region Port Captain Brian Kelley says.

"The taxis are going to operate on a strict schedule and a strict route."

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The Coast Guard established a temporary security zone on waterways in the National Capitol Region, stepping up restrictions day-by-day leading up to 11 p.m. on January 19. At that point, all vessels must be docked and only boats with an approved sail plan will be allowed to operate.

John Lake, a ship captain and the general manager of the company, said the sail plan he submitted was approved only a week ago and details nearly every move taxis will make.

"All the departures are scheduled times. And those departures are supposed to leave on-time," Lake said. "We have to call in on each departure to the Coast Guard, let them know we're preparing to get under way, and get the permission, basically, to get under way."

The boats depart the Alexandria Marina for the 40-minute trip beginning around 6 a.m. and must be docked on the southwest D.C. shore by 10 a.m. From there, it's a cold, mile-long walk to the Mall, so Lake has some advice for passengers.

"Show up early to get through the security check and dress warm," he said. "It's going to be nice and toasty on the boat, but not so much outside."

Return trips, tentatively scheduled for around 6 p.m., are not allowed to depart D.C. until after the inaugural parade events have concluded and President Obama is secured.

In keeping with the Coast Guard's security measures, Lake says all passengers must arrive at least an hour early for a full screening. Passengers that want to stay in D.C. after the early evening departures will have to find other transport back across the Potomac.

PRC Vice President Charlotte Hall says tickets went on sale Monday and the initial response from customers has been enthusiastic.

All About Potomac RiverU.S. Presidential InaugurationAlexandria (Virginia)National MallBarack ObamaU.S. Coast Guard

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