North Ferry, Greenport considering rerouting access to boats

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Ferry traffic mix up merging illegally at Third and Wiggins Street in Greenport in August.

Those hoping for relief from congestion and confusion that sometimes plagues drivers at North Ferry’s Greenport terminal, it’s not coming anytime soon.

But the problem of merging traffic correctly entering the line from Wiggins Street and illegally trying to join the line from Third Street is not being ignored.

North Ferry general manager Bridg Hunt said this week he’s optimistic about a meeting he and Julie Ben-Susan attended with Greenport Village officials and the Southold Transportation Committee to discuss rerouting ferry traffic.

“It was a very productive meeting” at which there were a lot of “really creative and positive suggestions,” Mr. Hunt said. “I would like to do something to improve the flow of traffic and I think we really have a good starting point,” he said.

What’s being talked about is rerouting all ferry traffic down Fourth Street in Greenport and running two or three ferry lines across property belonging to the Metropolitan Transit Authority in front of the Rail Road Museum, according to Greenport Trustee George Hubbard. He said he thinks ferry traffic could be staged into three lines similar to the multi-line approach used by Cross Sound Ferry in Orient.

But before that happens, Greenport would have to gain permission from the MTA. That step is in the hands of Greenport Mayor David Nyce who is currently on vacation and unavailable for comment.

In the past, Mr. Hubbard and Trustee Mary Bess Phillips have raised questions about the cost Greenport bears in terms of its roads being used and, in season, sometimes clogged by ferry traffic. North Ferry has also provided personnel to help direct traffic at the hub on Third Street. The area is shared by North Ferry, the Long Island Rail Road and Rail Road Museum and the East End Seaport Museum. Just south of the railroad tracks, but also using that hub, is the Hampton Jitney bus stop.

With the current traffic pattern, Greenport residents who live on the south side of Wiggins Street are asked not to park in front of their houses from Memorial Day to Labor Day  in order to accommodate the ferry line. Southold Police, who assist with ferry traffic when they’re notified of a major backup, don’t come down hard on those residents who fail to move their vehicles, according to Chief Martin Flatley.

Many drivers illegally access the ferry line from Third Street — some because they are unaware of the ban and others because they know the correct route, but assume they can make better time by ignoring it. The reliance on GPS systems adds to the foul ups since those systems often direct drivers down Third Street.

There are no signs at Front and Third streets to alert them they’re not supposed to access the line from there.

Mr. Hunt is skeptical about signs, saying drivers frequently don’t read them, just as they bypass the signs along Route 25 if they’re coming from the west that direct them down Sixth Street to get to Wiggins Street for ferry access.

His skepticism about posted signs is prompting a North Ferry decision on the Shelter Island side to mark roadways more clearly so drivers know where they can or can’t join the ferry line.

Just when the roadway markings will be done is not yet clear, but it will be in advance of the next summer season, Mr. Hunt said.