Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Water Tranportation on the Navesink and Shrewsbury Rivers?

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A most exciting discussion has been sparked by ground transportation issues related to the Route 36 Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge Project and general summer traffic in the surrounding area. There seems to be a lot of interest in developing a smaller craft water based transportation network from Sandy Hook and Highlands to Red Bank and even Monmouth Park. The map below was developed as a hypothetical concept by NJDOT in support of further discussion of the topic. There is at least one private charter boat operator who is considering the possibility of operation in 2009. Of course Highlands and Sandy Hook would benefit from the proposed service routes because railroad connections exist in Red Bank and at Monmouth Park. Meetings are ongoing and the concept deserves more detailed development. Look here for future updates over the next months.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Water Transportation: Union County, Middlesex County, and Monmouth County, NJ

Goal: Multiple stops from New York, New York along the Jersey shore connecting ferry and water taxi stops with NJ Transit Train and various ground transportation alternatives.

Method: Phased in development targeting recreational ridership to supplement current commuter service and establishing both recreational and commuter ridership at new locations.

Long Term Benefits: Diversification of ridership is necessary to maintain water transportation service during economic downturn. Recreational ridership is in demand due to economic downturn and fuel costs. Vacationers are staying closer to home and taking shorter day trips to save money. Municipalities along the shore must return to mass transit based economic development plans to maintain dynamic economy during this economic downturn. Potential of small to mid-sized Manhattan based corporations relocating to the Jersey shore due to lower rents and reasonable mass transportation by water to New York City.

Short Term Benefit: Route 36 and Sandy Hook traffic issues this summer due to the Route 36 Highlands-Sea Bright Bridge will impact residential quality of life and economic stability in shore towns along Route 36. Summer Concert Series on Sandy Hook is in danger of being cancelled due to traffic issues.

Present Status of development:

New York City, NY: NJ Transit Train Service is established at 34th Street NY Penn Station. Water transportation exists by commuter ferry from Wall Street and 34th Street to Belford terminal in Middletown, Atlantic Highlands and Highlands. Ferry Service may be available in 2009 from Wall Street and 34th Street to South Amboy and Carteret.

City of Elizabeth, NJ: NJ Transit Train Service is established at Jersey Street, one block from Broad Street. Water Transportation is contemplated from the Elizabeth Seaport. A shuttle or cab ride would be necessary between the Seaport and the train unless Conrail tracks become available for occasional passenger transport. A future extension of the aiport monorail is another option.

Borough of Carteret, NJ: NJ Turnpike exit 12 is a reasonable distance from the Carteret Waterfront where ferry service is possible today. Ferry service provider and Borough of Carteret are discussing establishment of commuter service to New York via South Amboy as early as 2009.

City of South Amboy, NJ: NJ Transit Train Service is established a short distance by ground transport from the waterfront. Ample parking exists in this location for motorists to transfer to ferry transport at this location. Service is possible to New York City at this time.

Borough of Keyport, NJ: Waterfront can support water transportation, and ferry service has existed in the past. A combination of water taxi and barge style ferry terminal is suggested at this location. Potential commuter and recreational parking availability exists due to large multipurpose parking lot at the waterfront. Borough of Keyport prefers to keep the waterfront open and available for recreational uses and views. A public boat launch exists at the waterfront.

Belford Ferry Terminal, Middletown Twp, NJ: Commuter transportation to NY is operational via NJ Transit Train Service and NY Waterway Ferry. Dock and Roll busses are in use on weekdays for commuter service from Middletown NJ Transit customers transferring to the ferry from Middletown Train Station. In 2008 Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders extended permission for Seastreak Ferry to enter Belford Ferry Terminal for purpose of supporting recreational transportation weekends only along the Jersey Shore to Sandy Hook.

A proposal has been made for a ferry service operator to take recreational riders from Belford Terminal, Middletown NJ to Sandy Hook and Highlands Terminal, NJ to improve traffic conditions along Route 36. Riders would connect with Belford Terminal via NJ Transit and the dock and roll bus system. Motorist could also exit Route 36 at Belford to take the ferry. From Highlands Terminal, NJ customers could experience fine dining and take a water taxi to Red Bank returning to their cars by NJ Transit Train to Middletown Station and ground transport by bus or by taxi to the Belford Terminal. The water taxi is now a privately run operation, a charter boat service by appointment only. Red Bank landings have not yet been established.

$300,000.00 is needed to cover operational costs for the 2009 summer season in a draw down account. This amount is calculated based upon costs of operation Saturday and Sunday each weekend from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Ferry Service Provider is willing to operate at cost to establish relief for Sandy Hook traffic entering and exiting the park during Route 36 Bridge construction. Multiple government entities have been contacted as possible support funding sources. It is expected that a future funding injection may not be needed if sufficient ridership is established by 2010 season.

Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Ferry commuter service is available Monday through Friday. No weekend service. Weekend service by ferry or water taxi may be desired if 2009 Sandy Hook Beach Route from Belford is established. Water taxi service via private charter vessel is possible by appointment. Ground transportation by taxi is available to Belford Terminal and Highlands Terminal.

Highlands, NJ: Ferry commuter service is available weekdays. Weekend Recreational service is available to NY city Saturday and Sunday. Water taxi is available to Atlantic Highlands, points along the Highlands shore, and Red Bank by private charter boat service. An appointment is necessary.

Borough of Red Bank, NJ: NJ Transit train service is available daily, weekends included. Ground travel by taxi exists between train and the waterfront. Landings have not yet been established for the water taxi, but are being discussed for 2009 season. Depending upon ridership requirements as water taxi service grows, shuttle busses may be desirable between train and water taxi landings.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ALTERNATIVES: Each municipality along the NJ shore may design an economic development plan around this water transportation system. NJ shore towns have been encouraged to develop artist colonies. These efforts would clearly be encouraged by mass transit opportunities nearer to these towns. The possibilities are endless.

In Highlands Borough officials are building on the seafood industry for economic development. However, a mixing of financial industry and high tech businesses is also being discussed. Highlands is already preparing by examining our Master Plan to encourage professional service business uses downtown on second and third floor rental spaces. Development based upon demand for larger space might be possible by combining lots while maintaining the historic character and charm of this seaport town in architectural design and building facades.

Wifi broadband internet service has been discussed in Highlands Borough as a draw to high tech recreational customers as well as future high tech businesses.

Borough of Highlands is supportive of private industry to establish the ONLY international seafood distribution facility on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. This will be a year round facility producing a varied and dynamic seafood based economy in Highlands and along the NJ Shore. The facility will also be a year round educational draw, showcasing cutting edge technology that permits live international shipment of shellfish by boat.

Members of the Highlands Borough Council are also discussing future development of the Highlands Ferry Terminal to increase parking and possibly showcase area restaurants, businesses, shellfish depuration, and this unique shellfish distribution center's cutting edge technology. Inclusion of a carousel and other nature and history points of interest as well as corporate conference facilities, retail, restaurant, and wholesale food markets are being discussed as options.