Bristol receives $1.2M for Prudence Island Ferry Dock renovation; project’s cost unclear

BRISTOL – The town of Bristol will receive $1.2 million to rehabilitate the north and south walls of Prudence Island Ferry Dock Pier from the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Sens. Jack F. Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline announced Monday.

The funds come from the U.S. DOT’s Passenger Ferry Grant program. The renovation will complement the rehabilitation of the west wall that was recently undertaken.

“This is a big win for Bristol that addresses both current and future waterfront infrastructure needs. Our No. 1 priority is making sure the dock is safe, and this federal grant will help ensure that is the case,” stated Bristol Town Administrator Steven Contente in prepared remarks. “I am also very conscious of improving services without increasing taxes, and so partnering with the federal government on a project of this nature is huge in terms of saving local tax dollars, while cost-effectively investing in the future of our transportation network and ensuring there is public access to Prudence Island.”

However, when PBN contacted Contente, he did not know how much the project would cost in total or how much of a financial contribution the town would have to make to the project to match the federal grant or even if the town had to match the grant. He said he would check into project’s details, but subsequently did not return multiple phone calls.

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A spokesman for Reed, Chip Unruh, said that a project in the Passenger Ferry Grant program is typically an 80 percent-20 percent split between federal and local money, but couldn’t provide an exact project cost amount. Unruh noted that the 80 percent federal match is not automatic and that the project could qualify for either more or less funding than the standard passenger ferry grant.

The U.S. Federal Transit Authority, the DOT agency responsible for the grants, also did not provide the full cost of the project by time of publication.

Still, the upgraded dock is expected to save the town money on maintenance and operations, as well as create the possibility for expanded service from Bristol to Newport and Bristol to Providence, according to the state’s congressional delegation.

“The Prudence Island Ferry provides a lifeline service, but it can’t run without adequate infrastructure,” said Reed, who helped the town identify the Passenger Ferry Grant program opportunity and supported the application. “That’s why I was pleased to work with the community to help deliver this federal funding, which will help Bristol, as well as Portsmouth. This service is an important link for residents and visitors traveling between Prudence Island and the mainland. This grant will create jobs improving the dock and provide long-term benefits of enhanced safety and accessibility, as well as options to create future transportation links from Bristol to Newport and between Bristol and Providence.”

The FTA also announced $494,144 in funding for the R.I. Public Transit Authority Tuesday to construct a steel bulkhead seawall at Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s Quonset Point passenger ferry facility to support service expansion. The application was filed by RIPTA on behalf of Rhode Island Fast Ferry, according to a RIPTA spokeswoman.

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.