Oyster Point ferry terminal work underway

June 27, 2008 6:38:23 AM PDT
A groundbreaking ceremony for the first physical activity in the commuter ferry terminal being built at Oyster Point in South San Francisco will take place in July, a San Mateo County Harbor District spokesman said Thursday.

On July 9, crews will begin construction to modify the entrance to the marina breakwater at Oyster Point. The construction will widen and reconfigure the entrance so ferryboats will have better, safer access to the terminal, district spokesman Peter Grenell said. This is the first step toward bringing daily ferry service to the Peninsula.

The terminal will provide service from Jack London Square in Oakland to South San Francisco, Water Emergency Transportation Authority spokesman John Sindzinski said. The authority hopes permits for things as varied as conditional use, construction standards and environmental studies are completed in the next few months so that construction on the project can begin in the late summer or early fall.

"It's typical to have this many permits for such a major project, Sindzinski said.

The terminal will be for passenger-only ferryboats, Sindzinski said. As the project gets closer to completion the authority will begin working with local public transportation providers to supply ferry riders with connections to their place of business.

"We will have a discussion with local providers at some point, but the project is in very premature stages at this point," Sindzinski said.

The terminal is expected to begin service by late 2009. It will be 180 feet long with a 90-foot gangway and a 50 by 110 foot float that will connect the gangway to the boats.

"Once we get approval on all the permits and finish some of the final funding details we will be set to build," Sindzinski said.

Initially the authority is expecting around 1,000 riders a day, but is hoping that the number will grow over time.

"It's an exciting project, we are looking forward to breaking ground," Sindzinski said.

Another benefit of the ferry service is the reduction of air pollution and traffic congestion from vehicles on the highways, Grenell said. Other major environmental advantages to the project are the design of the boats, he added. They are state-of-the-art in terms of fuel consumption and emissions, as well as being designed to have a minimum disruption to ecosystems in and around the bay.

"We feel that the whole plan for the terminal and ferry service is really important because it is going to be a model for other (ferry) services in the Bay Area and elsewhere in the country," Grenell said.

The authority was formed in October 2007 to encompass all commuter and emergency water transportation, according to Bay Area Council spokesman John Grubb. Building a new terminal at Oyster Point is part of the entire plan to revamp the Bay Area ferry system.

According the U.S. Geological Survey, there is a two-thirds chance that the Bay Area will suffer a large earthquake, similar to the 1906 earthquake, within the next 25 years. When the quake occurs, bridges spanning the Bay will most likely be closed due to damage, even with the retrofit procedures transit districts are undertaking.

In conjunction with bridge closures, most major freeways surrounding the Bay have been built on wetlands that were filled in with dirt, which will essentially turn to Jell-O when a large quake hits, according to Grubb. With the destruction of conventional transportation, emergency vehicles and other support systems will have to turn to water transit to dispatch equipment and services around the Bay.

The authority has the power to use the passenger ferries for emergency purposes, and will be able to coordinate rescue efforts from various terminals surrounding the bay, Sindzinski said. Eventually, the authority will operate ferries out of the North, South and East Bay, as well as the Peninsula and San Francisco.

The authority and the district feel "a great urgency in getting the project going so the county has that emergency capability as soon as possible," Grenell said.

The groundbreaking ceremony will take place at Oyster Point.


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