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boston-harbor-nowTransportation Secretary and MassDOT CEO Stephanie Pollack convened the Water Transportation Advisory Council today and the Council heard an update on the Comprehensive Boston Harbor Water Transportation Study being managed by Boston Harbor Now.

The study advances two new ferry routes into an additional analysis and business planning phase and in order to outline details of how these routes could be operated.

One potential route could provide service between East Boston, Downtown Boston via Long Wharf, Charlestown, and the Seaport as part of a hub and spoke system. The other potential route would provide direct connections between Squantum Point in Quincy and Downtown Boston with off-peak service to Columbia Point. Next steps for these routes will include municipal meetings and stakeholder engagement as part of the business plan development process for these lines. Final business plans for these potential future services will be released this summer.

At twelve dock sites around the Harbor, there were detailed studies of potential ridership and a survey of the physical dock conditions. Long Wharf in Downtown Boston, Navy Yard Pier 4 in Charlestown, Lewis Mall in East Boston, and Fan Pier in the Seaport had the greatest potential ridership within the Inner Harbor, while Squantum Point had the greatest potential for new ridership from the South Shore.

“The development along the waterfront in Boston and Quincy has increased dramatically in the past few years and these communities have expressed an interest in exploring new transportation options,” said Secretary Pollack. “This study will provide a framework for developing new partnerships between municipalities, developers, and private businesses that may benefit from the increased connectivity and mobility that a successful new ferry service would provide.” Secretary Pollack chairs the Water Transportation Advisory Council charged with creating a vision for a comprehensive system of water transportation services.

The Comprehensive Boston Harbor Water Transportation Study began in June 2017 and looked broadly in its initial analysis at the regions potential for expanding ferry service. Thirty dock sites around Boston Harbor were studied for their potential suitability and twelve with the greatest short term potential were studied further. The study found that many of these sites needed extensive work in order to provide ferry service, in some cases docks would need millions of dollars of investment, and in many cases dock locations would need to go through the local and state permitting process before ferry service could begin. A stated preference survey, conducted in August and September of 2017, provided data for the transportation demand models that serve as the backbone of the ridership analysis and potential fares.

“The potential for activating and leveraging Boston Harbor with increased water transportation service has been part of the vision for years, and it’s exciting to develop a tangible and implementable plan for ferry expansion as part of this process,” said Kathy Abbott, the President and CEO of Boston Harbor Now, a civic organization that has been tasked by the State to undertake the planning work.

MassDOT is one of several funders of the study. Massport, the Seaport Council of the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Affairs, the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, the Barr Foundation, the Cabot Family Charitable Trust, and the developers of the Envoy Hotel and Clippership Wharf are also supporting the effort. The National Park Service is funding a connected study that is looking at potential improvements to ferry services to the Boston Harbor Islands.

“Massport is committed to HOV travel in all of its business lines, water transportation being among them, and we are pleased to have worked on this issue with Boston Harbor Now,” said Massport CEO Thomas P. Glynn.

On the North Shore, MassDOT continues to work with officials in the City of Lynn to advance the procurement of a vessel using a $4.5 million federal earmark. In addition, now that the City of Salem has won a competitive Federal Transit Administration grant for a new vessel, MassDOT looks forward to working with Salem to advance that community’s procurement through the federal grant process.

Earlier phases of the process included extensive public outreach. Boston Harbor Now and the consultant team, led by Steer Davies Gleave, held water transportation stakeholder workshops to collect dock site ideas, collected 3,689 responses to a stated preference survey to understand how people make travel choices around Boston Harbor, and presented preliminary recommendations for each of 30 dock sites at a day-long Open House. Draft reports from these phases of the study and additional information can be found online.

Other presentations at the Water Transportation Advisory Council meeting today at 10 Park Plaza in Boston included updates on existing MBTA ferry service and the arrival of the MBTA’s newest vessel, an update on federal funding for ferries and facilities,  as well as news on the performance of the Winthrop and Quincy ferry service, which resumed operations on April 23.

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