Commuters could be one step closer to bypassing the typically clogged freeways over the Columbia River via a new ferry service between downtown Portland and Vancouver, Wash.

The Murdock Trust has provided Friends of the Frog Ferry with a $300,000 grant to study the benefits and costs of adding public water transportation in the Portland metro area. The nonprofit estimates a ferry would get passengers from Vancouver to Portland in 38 minutes.

The proposed route would include multiple stops, from Cathedral Park in North Portland to Oregon City, in vessels that could move 596 passengers per trip.

Going by water is just the latest proposal to deal with improving the traffic flow between Oregon and Washington, which features an 8-mile stretch from the Rose Quarter to the end of the Interstate 5 Bridge that's become known as one of the worst bottlenecks on the West Coast.

Although C-Tran, Clark County's public transportation agency, offers seven express commuter routes into downtown Portland, the length of those rides can vary widely depending on road conditions.

And the Columbia River Crossing, originally a joint venture to build a wider, modernized I-5 span with light rail involving both states and federal funding assistance, came to a contentious halt when Washington lawmakers decided not to pay for their share of the project. Talks to revive the plan began again late last year.

In the meantime, weary commuters' best shot at a swifter journey across the Columbia may be on the Columbia, if Friends of the Frog Ferry's feasibility study produces positive results.