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Port Jeff ferry

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat ferry company is temporarily operating with a significantly scaled down schedule. File photo

Ferry riders beware.

Frequent passengers of the Bridgeport-to-Port Jefferson ferry have fewer travel options for the time being.

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company currently has just one of its typical three-ship fleet available, according to Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the ferry company located in Port Jefferson Village on the New York side of the Long Island Sound.

One of the ships, the PT Barnum, is out of service due to a bent propeller wheel, and The Park City is also unavailable because of needed repairs. Hall said the wheel of the PT Barnum was bent last week when the underside of the vessel hit an underwater piling. The Grand Republic is the only ship left standing.

Temporary ferry schedule April 9 through 12

Port Jeff departures:

6 a.m.

9 a.m.

12:15 p.m.

3:15 p.m.

7 p.m.

Bridgeport departures:

7:30 a.m.

10:45 a.m.

1:45 p.m.

5 p.m.

8:30 p.m.

“We wish we could offer a little more convenient schedule, but we only have one boat operating,” Hall said in a phone interview.

The company alerted riders of the pared down temporary schedule in a Facebook post April 7.

“The ferry company regrets that we must reduce our schedule for the foreseeable future and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience,” the post said.

Hall said the plan is to get the PT Barnum to a shipyard for repairs later this week — either April 12 or 13 he said — and that he expected the propeller replacement should not be more than a one-day job, and a two-boat schedule would be reinstated in short order. There is no current timetable for The Park City’s return.

Service was impacted last weekend, with only two trips departing from Port Jefferson April 7 — one at 5 p.m. and one at 8:15 p.m. Typically 11 ferries rides would leave from Port Jeff on a Saturday or Sunday. Five trips were made Sunday, April 8. Just prior to the start of the work week, the company announced again via its Facebook that fewer rides would be offered at least through April 12. Ships will be departing Port Jeff at 6 a.m., 9 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m. and 7 p.m. through April 12, compared to a usual 10-ride weekday schedule. Only five return trips from Bridgeport, Connecticut are currently offered for the duration of the shortened service as well, with the earliest being 7:30 a.m. and the latest 8:30 p.m.

Several Facebook users commented on the two posts expressing frustration with the inconvenience.

“One boat = mismanagement, where does all the money go?” poster Kristine Sawdey said.

More than one commenter said they hoped the shortened service would be over soon.

The PT Barnum has been part of the company’s fleet since 1998. The 300-foot vessel has the capacity to hold up to 120 vehicles and 1,000 passengers, according to the ferry’s website.

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Repair work to strengthen bulkheads protecting the pier used by The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat ferry company is slated to be finished in June. Photo by Alex Petroski

It’s a common question lately for anyone within earshot of the Port Jefferson ferry: what’s that sound?

The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company, which docks its vessels on the shores of Port Jefferson Village, is in the midst of a repair project that is addressing critical infrastructure, but it’s also causing residents to wonder aloud when they might have some peace and quiet.

Chesterfield Associates, a privately-owned contracting firm hired by the ferry company, is in the process of replacing sheet steel panels that make up the bulkhead, or retaining wall that protects the infrastructure below the pier, according to Jeff Grube, the general manager of the firm. Grube said the loud noise residents are periodically hearing is caused by a vibratory hammer, the machinery being used to drive the steel sheets into the underwater soil. If something obstructs the sheet from being driven into the soil — like in one case a submerged barge, according to Grube — that’s when the decibel level is loudest near the waterfront.

“Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this.”

— Facebook poster

“The old sheet piling was corroding to the point where they were starting to lose a lot of fill behind the bulkhead,” Grube said. He added that structural issues could arise if the repair work were not completed, causing a hazardous situation for anyone using the pier. Grube said Chesterfield Associates constructed the dock in the ‘80s, and thanks to regular upkeep by the ferry company, the bulkhead hasn’t needed to be addressed until now, but it was time for the repairs in order to strengthen its critical infrastructure. The general manager said the project is progressing as initially expected, and should be completed by the end of June. The ferry company first submitted an application to the village’s building department Sept. 1, 2017, which estimated the total cost for the project to be nearly $10 million.

The area behind the bulkhead is below the vehicle holding area for the ferry, according to Linda DeSimone, the senior structural engineer for Greenman-Pederson, Inc., the design firm overseeing the plan.

“I don’t understand how the village residents are defenseless to this latest issue,” a poster on a closed Facebook group comprised of Port Jeff village residents said Feb. 20, referring to the loud noise. “Projects should include some type of shielding to prevent residences being rattled like this. I wouldn’t expect to pay for my room downtown, and the noise has to be hurting all village businesses. Get that thing shut down and keep it shut down ‘til they provide a plan that protects the residents and businesses. No one wants to live in or spend money in the middle of a noisy shipyard construction project.”

Others joined the poster in questioning when a projected end date for the construction is, and if the noise violated village code. The village does have a section in its code dedicated to noise pollution, which states specific decibel levels not to be exceeded Sunday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. A lower decibel threshold exits for all other hours.

 

One of the exceptions in the noise pollution section of village code is for construction activities, which are permitted to take place only from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. For this project, the village passed a resolution Sept. 18 allowing the repair work at the ferry to be conducted from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The added hours were approved to expedite the completion of the project.

“The hours of relief requested are on the bookends of the workday, so those hours would be mostly for setup and breakdown,” Village Mayor Margot Garant said in September.

Garant said in an email the village has not received many complaints about the noise.

“It’s unfortunate, but this work needs to happen — the ferry is an important, integral part of our harbor,” she said. The mayor added the village has no plans to revisit the section of its code pertaining to noise pollution, but instead will “stay the course and hope they complete [the work] ahead of schedule.”

The ferry company also addressed the repair work in a November 2017 Facebook post.

“The terminal improvements should improve traffic flows and help us to stage vehicles more efficiently,” the post said. “Thank you for your continued patience and please know how much we appreciate you using our service.”

This post was updated Feb. 26 to include an updated photo and video.