Commuter ferry to arrive in mid-2009

November 7, 2008 at 7:13 pm Leave a comment

Area commuters will have to wait until next summer to see the return of ferry service to New York.

CHRIS KELLY staff John Goley of Old Bridge races to the finish line during the Haunted 5K and Family Fun Run in Aberdeen, Monmouth County, on Oct. 26. 
“We’re looking at June/July of ’09,” said Stan Marcinczyk, the city’s redevelopment consultant. The road leading to the ferry terminal and the parking lot need to be completed before the ferry can operate, he added.

Although a daily newspaper reported in January that the city was looking at a spring 2008 opening of the ferry, Marcinczyk said the new timeline projection is realistic.

“Do I think it’s doable? Yes. And the engineers think that’s doable,” he said.

Marcinczyk said he and other South Amboy officials occasionally hear from area residents inquiring about the ferry’s reopening. Noting that people are “not overly anxious or overly concerned,” he said people do e-mail the city administrator’s office occasionally to inquire about whether the ferry service is going to happen.

There are some area commuters who say they are anxious to get the service going again.

“We have been told so many different dates, I have given up,” said Sayreville resident Michael Scarpa. “From Congressman [Frank] Pallone’s office to the South Amboy mayor’s office. It’s always coming in the next six months. Take a ride down there, and the place looks like a construction site that has been abandoned. They always seemto place the blame on either the N.J. Department of Transportation or the infamous road that is supposed to link existing roads to the ferry terminal site.”

Scarpa now takes the NY Waterway ferry from the Belford section of Middletown to the Wall Street area. He said that between gas and tolls, he now spends an extra $200 each month to get to and from that ferry.

“I’m tired of getting the ‘It will start …’ routine I get from city hall, as the date always comes and goes without the ferry starting,” said South Amboy resident Marc Bliesener, who also takes the Belford ferry to lower Manhattan.

“I am a former South Amboy ferry rider and certainly do miss that mode of transport. The other ferries are too hard to get to from my home in southwest Old Bridge,” said Marilyn Giuliano, who now takes the train from South Amboy to New York. “We’ve been hearing about the return of the ferry, but all the promised dates have come and gone.”
The ferry is also something that South Amboy residents Greg and Andrea Levine, who moved to Beacon Point a year ago, had hoped would raise their property value.

“Our choice [to live here] was based around the proximity to highways, train, bus and hopefully ferry,” said Greg Levine. The couple has lived in South Amboy for a year.

Bliesener, who moved to South Amboy in early 2007, said he bought his house with the thinking the ferry wa coming soon. Scarpa said he knows other residents who bought homes in the area because of the ferry option.

The South Amboy ferry ran for four years before closing in 2006 to allow for construction of a more permanent setup. The new setup, Marcinczyk said, will allow for about 300 more parking spots for commuters.

“I know the parking lot [in 2006] was filled to capacity. I believe those people will come back and it will grow,” Marcinczyk said.

Mayor John T. O’Leary, in a story posted on the city’s Web site, said “the ferry will be a boon for the local economy, enhance property values and help stabilize property taxes for many years to come.”

In preparing for the ferry terminal, the city constructed two bridges over Main Street — one for vehicular traffic; the other for Conrail trains. The state granted $15.8 million for that project. Also, a total of $15 million in federal funds are being leveraged to construct a road from the bridges to the waterfront, a parking lot for about 800 cars, and the ferry terminal building and dock.

The city has not yet named a ferry operator.

The ferry route is an important option for Wall Street-area commuters because NJ Transit trains and the Hudson River crossings into New York all put commuters too far uptown. That means those commuters then have to take a subway or cab or drive further south after arriving in the city.

The ferry, Marcinczyk said, will get commuters from South Amboy to the Wall Street area in just 42 minutes.

But convenience, although important, isn’t the only reason why commuters may choose the water route.

“Obviously driving by car is almost cost-prohibitive,” Marcinczyk said. “The train is not a bad ride, but the ferry I think offers a little bit more comfort, is more direct and gets you there quicker,” he said, adding, “There’s really nothing like it.”



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