Funding for Ferry Service Arrives in East Boston

“Not only am I a believer I’m an apostle,” said Boston Redevelopment Authority head Peter Meade sitting in his office Tuesday when asked if he was a believer in the future of East Boston’s waterfront.

“But the biggest champion is Mayor (Thomas) Menino and no one is more frustrated over the lack of progress these past few years,” he added.

But skeptics in Eastie might think differently.

It’s hard to believe Menino, who wields great political influence and authority over how Boston is shaped and has the Midas touch when it comes to redeveloping long-forgotten corners of the city, has had to wait this long to see the waterfront here take shape.

Meade is sincere in his assessment of Menino’s frustration.

“When he’s focused on something he’s looking for every way to get it done,” said Meade. “There’s not a day that goes by that he’s not checking in with this office to see what progress is being made.”

With so many moving parts to coordinate, a down economy and developers getting cold feet every other month, Meade said he’s sure solid progress is on its way.

“Roseland pulled a permit for Pier I last week and I expect to see shovels in the ground by the end of the year,” said Meade. “Once one of these projects goes up you’ll see a domino affect.”

In his speech, to the Boston Chamber of December 6, Menino said a sign of the City’s commitment to Eastie’s waterfront the city would finance a new marine terminal in East Boston.

“It will enhance harbor connections between East Boston and other neighborhoods,” said Menino in the speech. “It will also create a substantial water transit node near the T’s new Maverick square head house, where use is on the rise. There is significant infrastructure in place already. The city can finance the terminal and recoup our investment as the developers finish their projects.”

Today, Menino made good on his promise and announced the City has been awarded $1.28 million in federal grant money for the purchase of two ferries. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds will assist in the implementation of ferry service between Eastie, South Boston, and Charlestown—a sign that waterfront development here may again be percolating.

The new service will meet the growing demand for transportation across Boston Harbor and boost economic opportunity by creating new transit connections between Boston residents and jobs.

“The car is no longer king in Boston and today I’m proud to announce a new way to move people around the City,” said Menino. “The inner Harbor ferry service will decrease congestion and improve air quality while investing in new affordable transportation infrastructure and adding value to Boston’s waterfront communities.”

The BRA will manage the grant funds and purchase of two passenger ferries. The terms of the FHWA grant requires that the City match the $1.28 million by 20 percent, or $320,000 for a total anticipated purchase price of $1.6 million.

Menino also thanked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood for investing in water transportation in Boston.

An operator will be chosen to manage the day-to-day operations of the ferry through a Request For Proposal process this fall. The ferry service is projected to set sail in 2013 with fare and route details currently under review.

The new ferry service will enhance Boston’s water transit a key part of Menino’s Boston Harbor planning objectives. Additionally plans are underway to rehabilitate the Eastie Marine Terminal in Maverick Square.

The last Capital Budget approved by the City included $155,000 to pay for the infrastructure improvements promised as part of this new Waterfront Development District. This money will pay for water transportation infrastructure investment, including a study to determine demand, infrastructure requirements and programming of water transportation.”

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