Ferry’s future may include Rocky Point stop

Johnston Sun Rise ·

The Providence-to-Newport ferry has been so successful that Department of Transportation Director Peter Alviti is thinking of extending the service to coastal communities, including a stop at Rocky Point Park.

In a recent interview, Alviti said the ferry service “looks like it is taking off…there’s the prospect of opening it to various coastal communities.”

And while there’s little left to the Rocky Point dock, the Department of Environmental Management is in the design phase of a fishing pier, which could also be used for transient boating and a ferry at Rocky Point.

Lisa Primiano, chief of DEM’s Division of Planning and Development, said Friday what’s left of the former dock would be removed and a new pier, if it were to be built, would be in the same area.

Primiano also outlined other Rocky Point developments, including plans to open the entrance off Palmer Avenue once a parking area bounded by wood guardrails is completed and advertising for a request for proposals for a park master plan.

Primiano said DEM would need to reach a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the city of Warwick before construction of a pier. The pier would be part of the 41 acres of shoreline acquired by the city. Other considerations include pier access and how far away it would be from parking.

Primiano thought access to a fishing pier might be easier, as it wouldn’t require nearby parking. But these are issues that appear secondary to whether a ferry stop is not only desirable but viable. At a meeting last Thursday between DOT and DEM staff members, the question of a ferry stop was raised and Primiano assured that the pier would be able to accommodate a ferry.

As Alviti imagines it, the ferry could open coastal communities to visitors and provide a desirable alternate means of transportation. On his list of possible ferry stops were East Greenwich, Wickford, Jamestown and Bristol.

“This is a great asset,” he said of the state’s coastline.

In its first month of operation – the Providence-to-Newport ferry started operations on July 1 – the ferry has carried more than 15,000 passengers. One-way rates are $10 for adults and half-price for children, seniors and the disabled.

Capable of carrying 149 passengers, the ferry provides three roundtrips Monday through Thursday and four trips on Friday, the weekend and on holidays. Three-dozen trips have been sold out and, according to DOT spokesman Charles St. Martin, 30 percent of the ridership is from out of state.

The service is being financed with a $500,000 federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) improvement grant. Under the terms of the agreement with Seastreak, the company keeps fare proceeds but was also responsible for making dock repairs at the former Shooters property on India Street, where it departs.

St. Martin said there is the possibility of having the grant renewed next year and for the foreseeable future. Also, he noted that this service differs from that run by the Rhode Island Passenger Transit Authority (RIPTA) from 2003 to 2008 in that this service is seasonal – it ceases Sept. 5 – and is not being billed as a means of commuting between Providence and Newport. Rather, he explained, the purpose has been to reduce Newport motor vehicle congestion and provide a viable alternative to making the drive to Newport and parking once there. The drive to Newport and the ferry ride are comparable in time. RIPTA service also ran from Conley’s Wharf, which is further away from downtown Providence.

On average, ridership from Newport to Providence is about 10 percent less than from Providence to Newport.

As for developments at Rocky Point, apart from the painting of the arch that started yesterday, Primiano said the trails agreement that includes the parking lot and a trail that would complete the loop with the coastline walkway and bike path built by the city is in place with the DOT. She said the work on those projects would start “as soon as we can get to it.”

She said the capping of the former amusement park dump was completed as of last Thursday under a settlement agreement with Cardi Construction.

According to DEM, Cardi Corporation was issued a $100,000 penalty for the unauthorized removal of contaminated soil from the I-195 project site in Providence and the depositing of the contaminated soil at the new middle school site at 7 Rustic Hill Road in the town of Glocester.

Primiano explained that under the agreement, Cardi performed the work rather than pay the penalty.

Primiano said she believed the request for master plan proposals should be ready for advertising this fall. She said DEM would be looking for a “phased plan for full development.” A key to the plan would be “a private investment component” that would assist with the operations end of the park.

A total of $100,000 for the pier design comes from the 2017 Rhode Island Capital Budget as earmarked for Rocky Point, 25 India Park (former Shooters site) and the Green Pier (being turned over to the state by the Navy) in Middletown. She said an additional $500,000 is planned for the 2018 budget and amounts of $1 million in 2019 and 2020. The funding is for the three projects, but, as Primiano observed, it could be augmented by federal grants.

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