Officials say ferry service is ‘very close’


South Amboy officials believe the process to get a ferry service back up and running has been on fast-forward the past couple of months.

Officials have been working to bring back the ferry, which had been quickly established to assist with commuting efforts after Sept. 11, 2001. That service, which ran until 2006, was not a permanent solution.

In 2008, officials said they were optimistic that state Department of Transportation (DOT) approval for a full-time operation, including a terminal and parking, were soon forthcoming. They envisioned the area as a true transportation hub encompassing both train and ferry service, the latter of which could take commuters to downtown Manhattan in 42 minutes.

However, efforts to establish the ferry service stalled out for years. Officials said DOT delays were compounded by the recession.

Residents have been divided on the issue, with commuters anxious to have an alternative commuting method while others expressed concerns about traffic or the consequences if the ferry business should fail.

However, a recent influx of federal money has helped accelerate the project, giving the city more visibility with DOT representatives, Business Administrator Camille Tooker explained during an update on the project at the Dec. 2 City Council meeting.

Where the project stands now, she said, is that a request for proposals is currently out to identify a licensed site remediation professional who can do soil remediation at the ferry terminal site.

In a couple of months, the city also will go out to bid for the construction work associated with carting the soil away from the site. Tooker said DOT approval is required on the city’s plans before it can go out for bids.

Further down the road is the process of identifying a contractor for the design of the ferry terminal and parking.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel there,” she said. “We’re actually getting very close.”

“I know how hard you guys are working on it,” Council President Mickey Gross said.

Mayor Fred Henry acknowledged the process overall wasn’t moving as quickly as officials would like, but did agree, “things are moving along in a very, very positive direction.”