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Bridgeport Ferry move faces continued delays

October 21, 2018

BRIDGEPORT — The Bridgeport-Port Jefferson ferries are a familiar sight as they cruise to and from the right bank of the city’s harbor, bringing commuters and visitors across Long Island Sound.

And while the ferry company received local approvals four years ago move the operation across the harbor to Seaview Avenue, that relocation continues to experience delays. Most recently, the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company sought and received a third one-year-extension for the project from local zoning officials.

General Manager Fred Hall said environmental remediation of the land where the new ferry terminal is to be built — 8.5 acres between the Turbana Corporation building and Dolphin’s Cove Restaurant and Marina — is “done to the point where we can proceed with developing the property.”

But Hall said there have been delays in getting approval from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Chris Colibee, a DEEP spokesman, said that agency has been working with the ferry company “on a pre-application basis” on issues involving shoreline construction and storm water management.

“We offer these pre-application meetings to make their life a little easier, so they’re not sending a request and we’re rejecting it,” Colibee said. “We’re trying to work with the applicants ahead of time so we understand their needs, they understand state law and regulations.”

Colibee said “it appears we have worked out most of our concerns with the ferry company” and that DEEP is awaiting a formal permitting application.

Nothing has gone easily since the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company first sought to move the ferries to a larger property nearly a decade ago.

“I’m kind of used to things not proceeding as fast as perhaps we’d like them,” Hall said.

The city rejected the proposal in 2010; the ferry company appealed in court and lost in 2012.

But by 2014 the attitude about the relocation — critics argued it was a bad idea to move farther from downtown businesses and the train/bus station — had changed, and opposition dissipated.

Hall said he was looking forward to construction finally beginning in 2019. He said there is an additional incentive to break ground — adding a fourth ferry to the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson route.

“We’re beginning to plan to build another boat, so we need to have the births to tie her up,” he said. “And until the project’s complete in Bridgeport, we don’t have the births for four boats.”

Hall added the ferry company is still deciding what to do with its current terminal.

“We’re debating holding on to where we are now, just for backup,” he said.

Rowena White, spokeswoman for Mayor Joe Ganim, who took office in 2015, said city officials are not concerned about the delays. While there is a lot of activity and hoped-for development along the harbor, including a proposed casino, hotel and entertainment center, “There’s nothing hinging on their move,” White said.

“The city is just going to wait and let them do what they need to do,” she said.