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New London-Groton water taxi to run on trial basis next month

By Greg Smith

Publication: The Day

Published August 22. 2014 4:00AM   Updated August 22. 2014 4:10PM

New London — The city's Port Authority on Thursday conditionally approved use of City Pier as a stop for a water taxi expected to run during two weekends in September as part of a pilot program that is expected to be funded by the state.

The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments contracted with Cross Sound Ferry to operate a boat, picking up and dropping off as many as 44 passengers at a time between City Pier, Fort Trumbull in New London and Fort Griswold in Groton, according to program coordinator Penny Parsekian.

The overall concept of linking historic, recreational and cultural sites dates back to the 1960s and goes hand-in-hand with the idea of a Thames River Heritage Park, said state Rep. Elissa Wright, D-Groton, who has worked to secure funding for the taxi.

The future National Coast Guard Museum in New London and a study by the Yale Urban Design Workshop helped to revive the idea, Wright said.

"We're hoping to generate interest to support long-term funding to operate the water taxi for the next summer season," said Wright.

The state lawmaker said she is working to get approval so that the taxi could someday stop at the U.S. Navy's Submarine Force Library & Museum, home to the Nautilus, the nation's first nuclear-powered submarine.

The free taxi is expected to run from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sept. 6-7 and Sept. 13-14.

Members of the Port Authority voted in favor of the idea, while voicing some concerns over liability issues and permitting for the boat. Wright said Cross Sound Ferry would be handling insurance and permitting and any other issues, such as Coast Guard approval, would be completed before the taxi is in service. Authority members also wanted assurances that signs and stairs used to load and offload passengers would be removed from City Pier by the crew of the shuttle at the end of each day.

Tambria Moore was the lone member present at Thursday's meeting to vote against the measure. Moore said it was not clear if the vessel being used would meet U.S. Coast Guard specifications for use as a taxi.

The Thames River Heritage Park Water Shuttle Demonstration Project is expected to use Mystic Seaport's vessel Liberty as the taxi during its pilot runs.

"It's a big step for an exciting project," Parsekian said after Thursday's meeting.

g.smith@theday.com

Editor's note: This version corrects an earlier version. The Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments has contracted with Cross Sound Ferry to run the water taxi, and state funding has not yet been secured. The passenger pick-up system for the water taxi has not yet been determined.

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