Cape May-Lewes Ferry sails to its 50th birthday

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 The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is the subject of a new documentary from WHYY-TV. (Elisabeth Perez-Luna/WHYY)

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is the subject of a new documentary from WHYY-TV. (Elisabeth Perez-Luna/WHYY)

A new WHYY documentary, “Billion Mile Journey: The Cape May-Lewes Ferry,” airing Wednesday on WHYY-TV, chronicles the political wrangling that led up to the ferry’s opening, what Delaware and New Jersey got out of the deal, and how use of the ferry has changed over the last 50 years.

Picture this.

It’s 1964 and you’re living in Virginia, getting ready to attend the New York World’s Fair. You hop in your first-model-year Ford Mustang and cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. On your way, you stop at one of Wawa’s first stores. And to maintain your coastal route, you drive your ‘Stang onto the brand new Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which transports you and the car from Lewes, Delaware, across the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey, a trip that could take twice as long on the road.

That transportation innovation is the subject of a new WHYY documentary, “Billion Mile Journey: The Cape May-Lewes Ferry,” airing Wednesday night on WHYY-TV. It chronicles the political wrangling that led up to the ferry’s opening, what Delaware and New Jersey got out of the deal, and how use of the ferry has changed over the last 50 years.

“People were looking for a better way to connect one community to the other,” said John Mussoni, executive producer of “Billion Mile Journey” and managing editor of WHYY’s Wilmington bureau.

For the film, Mussoni and his team collected hours of interviews with ferry workers and riders, getting a glimpse at the culture the Cape-May Lewes Ferry has spawned.

“Ferry people are kind of like railroad people,” he said. “People who love railroads love railroads. These people really love this boat.”

To hear WHYY Morning Edition host Jennifer Lynn’s full conversation with Mussoni, click the audio above. To see “Billion Mile Journey,” tune in to WHYY-TV tonight at 10 p.m.

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