The Tobins claim the state has determined that the roads on Taylors Island are adequate, and a replacement bridge is planned anyhow.
"That bridge has been in the works to be replaced for years," Mr. Tobin said. He added that the ferry traffic would be intermittent. Cars coming off the ferry would have several options for getting off the island, he said, and are unlikely to overload existing roads.
When initial opposition failed to kill the ferry plan, the Tobins continued to seek the necessary permits.
After Dorchester County came some complicated wrangling involving changing the land designation to allow the ferry's establishment, and again the Tobins were successful in getting the state and local designations they needed to advance their plan to the next level.
The next level involved the state Department of Natural Resources and the Army Corps of Engineers, the final authority for the project.
"We review everything, as one complete project," said Marion Gall, an ecologist with the corps who has been involved with the Tobins' project.
No governmental resistance
After the Tobins had answered all the corps' questions, Ms. Gall checked with local authorities in Calvert and Dorchester counties. Both governments indicated no resistance to the plan, she said, and the Tobins submitted a complete and formal application to the Corps of Engineers.
That application revived opposition, however, and the corps agreed to conduct a public hearing on the matter in February.
Recent opposition in Calvert County has been so vocal that last month the county commissioners passed a one-year moratorium ferries to allow themselves time to study the issue.
"The county commission asked the county staff to research it and prepare some changes to the regulations, if warranted," said Frank Jaklitsch, Calvert County's planning and zoning director. He acknowledged the ban was on "vehicular ferries" only and that Mr. Tobin's application is the only one pending before the county.
"The commission really wanted us to consider the summer traffic, boat and vehicular," he said.
Because of the Calvert County moratorium, Mr. Tobin has temporarily withdrawn his Corps of Engineers application. "We didn't expect to take this long to get the permits," he said with the patience that has sustained him eight years. "Then, once we started, we didn't want to give up. We figured the only thing that would stop us is if we quit."
So he and his wife don't plan to give up.
The Tobins have worked up a partial business plan and cost estimates. They say they have some investors interested.
$4 million start-up cost
They anticipate a service that would have two boats, Mr. Tobin said. Each boat would make five round trips a day, operating during daylight hours only. The boats would be the largest part of the estimated $4 million start-up cost, he said, and they'll be about $1.5 million each if they have them built, less if they buy them used.
Each boat would carry about 30 cars, he said. The one-way rate would be $13 to $15 per car, less for walk-ons and bicyclists, and the trip would take an hour and 15 minutes each way.
"We think we can get some of the cars to bypass Baltimore," he said. Each ferry would have a captain and a deckhand, later, maybe food could be served by Mrs. Tobin.
Their market analysis indicates a variety of people would use such a ferry service, he said. Some of the travelers could include business people, students from Salisbury State University, hunters, Florida-bound Northerners who have used the Lewes-Cape May ferry, and local people with relatives in the area.
"Dorchester County was settled from St. Mary's County," Mr. Tobin said. "By water it's quite close and that's how they used to travel in the old days."
And he thinks the ferry will have intrinsic lure. "We think it's going to be a good tourist attraction," he said. "Right now, Calvert County is 125 miles from here. If you have a ferry that goes 11 miles, it's like taking those two counties and moving them together."
His wife puts it more simply:
"Anytime you do anything, you're going to have opposition -- we found that out," she says. "I get irritated that people don't realize that it's a good thing. I can only see it as something that is good. . . . I can't see any bad in it at all."