North Fork residents can breathe a sigh of relief.
An ill-fated proposal to allow heavy freight trucks traveling from I-95 in Connecticut to the North Fork via Cross Sound Ferry has officially been eliminated. After months of back and forth, the U.S. Maritime Administration removed all language referencing the Cross Sound Enhancement Project.
“The community voice spoke out and the elected officials listened,” said Orient Association president Robert Hanlon. “And we are delighted that they did. We feel that this is a strong result that will benefit the community over the long haul.”
The proposal hit its first roadblock after facing opposition earlier this year. In April, less than six weeks after Orient residents raised the first concerns, the proposal was dropped from the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council’s Regional Freight Plan. However, it was still outlined in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s freight plan, leaving a slim possibility it could be brought back.
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) worked with the USDOT to outline the transportation situation on the North Fork and, on Nov. 17, it was announced the plan had been removed from the federal program.
“It’s a very simple formula: an active community, local, county, state and federal representatives working together and a responsive congressman to address the issue,” said Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell.
A letter from Paul Jaenichen, Maritime Administrator at the U.S. Maritime Administration, said research done after hearing concerns about increased truck traffic on Route 25 is what led to the removal of the truck capacity expansion project.
“In the event that future grants are awarded to this service, MARAD will ensure that the funds are used for purposes that are consistent with the Long Island and Connecticut freight plans, such as re-powering the vessels to reduce their air emissions and/or improving shore-side facilities,” the letter read.
The New York Metropolitan Transportation Council originally proposed an expansion that would allow 3,000 additional trucks to travel from I-95 in Connecticut to Long Island via the ferry, with the idea to reduce crowding on New York metropolitan roadways.
It was sponsored by the Connecticut State Department of Transportation in 2012 and proposed to improve three ferry boats so there could be a 25 percent increase in truck capacity from New London to Orient. The Trucks would travel across routes 25 and 48 to reach the Long Island Expressway.
The Connecticut State Department of Transportation said that research showed increasing ferry travel would decrease truck miles by 500,000 miles per year, leading to a reduction in emissions and infrastructure maintenance savings.