Second ferry coming to Salem

The Nathaniel Bowditch, Salem's ferry, carries passengers to and from Boston. Salem will be getting a second ferry, allowing the city to expand service, thanks to a federal grant. (File photo)

SALEM — The city is getting another ferry.

The U.S. Department of Transportation is giving the city a $3.4 million grant to buy a second ferry to run out of Salem Wharf, at the end of Blaney Street. With it, City Hall must also commit $600,000 of its own money, bringing the overall investment to $4 million.

“With only one boat, you’re restricted on the number of places you can go,” said Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. “Having a second boat will enable us to look at more frequent service for commuters and more frequent service to other locations.”

The federal money comes from the DOT’s Passenger Ferry Grant Program. 

Of the city’s portion, $350,000 will go into a temporary dock at the end of the wharf, giving boats another spot to pull up to when coming to Salem, Driscoll said.

The Salem Ferry, run by Boston Harbor Cruises, has taken Salem residents and visitors to and from Boston for the last several years. Tens of thousands of riders take the ferry each year — with 61,000 reported in 2015. Of that number, Boston Harbor Cruises said only 17 percent of riders were commuters.

Blaney Street has also been a stop for a water-based taxi service that, this year, will expand to include a stop on Village Street in Marblehead.

“We’re working really hard on alternative transportation options to cut down on congestion on roadways,” Driscoll said.

A long list of details have to be worked out before a second ferry starts running. As such, Driscoll said service likely won’t be boosted this year.

“We just got the grant,” Driscoll said. “There’s grant agreements that need to be forwarded to us and signed, and we have to be in compliance with everything the federal government has required.”

But there’s another perk to the news. When the boat arrives and work on the new pier is buttoned up, plans will also be coming together for more than 40 acres of open space to be developed on the Salem Harbor Footprint property next door.

“This definitely could play positive into the power plant redevelopment,” Driscoll said. “If we’re talking about opportunities, the remaining land around the power plant, having other ways to get people to and from the site is beneficial.”

That was echoed by Kate Fox, executive director of Destination Salem, the city’s marketing arm.

“There’s a lot of opportunity, and using the water is always desirable because there’s less traffic,” she said. “Making connections between Salem and other ports, that extends our reach for both tourists and residents, people visiting from near and far. It’s just a great opportunity to be able to expand.”

One example Driscoll cited is Boston’s Seaport District, which she said is showing “tremendous growth.”

“Having ferry service to enable commuters to go in via boat would be terrific,” she said.

The grant announcement came Friday from U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and Congressmen Seth Moulton and Stephen Lynch. 

“Access to Salem’s historic harbor and waterfront is one of the many things that makes our community special,” Moulton said in a statement. “I thank the DOT for recognizing that additional ferry service is crucial to the continued economic growth of Salem and the overall quality of life of our local commuters.”

Hingham is also getting a shot in the arm from the same grant program. The South Shore community is getting $6 million to build a new ferry dock. 

“This federal funding to modernize our ferry systems is terrific news for Hingham, Salem, and for the entire coastal region,” Warren said in a statement. “I’m committed to ensuring that the federal government is a strong partner for our cities and towns in Massachusetts, and that means supporting key infrastructure projects like these, which will improve families’ transit options and help support our local economy.”

Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

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