PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — City officials are reversing course slightly on their plan to allow the amphibious “duck” tour boats on the Schuylkill River: the process is being opened up to competitive bidding.

“What we’re looking for is the best possible solution for the city of Philadelphia,” says Philadelphia managing director Rich Negrin, who earlier this fall ordered duck tour boats to shift to the Schuylkill River, following last summer’s fatal accident on the Delaware.

Originally it was assumed the “Ride the Ducks” company would simply change venues.  But Negrin realized that any new operation must be put out to bid.

“In an effort to make sure we’re doing things the right way, we’re going to do an RFP (request for proposals),” he said.  “The company has been cooperative through that process.  They understand why we have to do that.”

So other duck boat companies -– and there are a few nationally -– can bid for the rights to conduct tours on the Schuylkill.

Negrin says the bidders must show how the beauty of the river can be preserved even as tour boat rides are added.

“We’re looking for something that doesn’t impact the serenity of the Schuylkill banks and the park area, that really enhances the experience down by the lower Schuylkill, which really is an untapped gem at this point,” he said.

Negrin also says a winning bidder must demonstrate sensitivity to the noise issue, given that duck boat passengers on the Delaware would often use quacking noisemakers during the rides.

The request for proposals does not specify a route for the tour boats.  But Negrin says he feels the lower Schuylkill, the section below the Water Works dam at the art museum, is underutilized and could prove ideal for such an operation.

Negrin hopes to choose a firm by year’s end and to have the tours on the Schuylkill going by next summer’s tourist season.

Two Hungarian tourists died on July 7th of this year when a disabled Ride the Ducks vehicle, stranded in the Delaware River, was rammed by a barge being pushed by a city-operated tug.  Families of both victims are suing, and the NTSB is continuing its investigation.

Reported by KYW City Hall Bureau Chief Mike Dunn.



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