The Block Island Times

Benefits of Newport-to-B.I. ferry

By Betty J. Cotter | Jan 21, 2013
Source: 2008 file photo Interstate's Islander will travel at speeds of around 27 knots — similar to the Athena, the high-speed Point Judith-to-B.I. ferry that is pictured here.

Although some details remain to be worked out, the city of Newport is ready to welcome Interstate Navigation’s new high-speed ferry to Block Island.

The vessel, a used catamaran being overhauled, should begin its three trips a day sometime in late June, according to Michael R. McElroy, lawyer for the ferry company.

And Newport’s tourism and city officials already anticipate the ferry, called the Islander, will have economic benefits.

Those benefits will come not from new jobs — at least not immediately, because Interstate will not be hiring additional workers. The ferry company is eliminating the traditional ferry that ran once a day from Fort Adams in Newport and transferring the crew to the high-speed ferry.

Rather, Newport and Interstate officials are hopeful that the opportunity to travel quickly between the two tourist destinations will mean more business for the shops and restaurants in both locations, which in turn could create jobs.

“We are very excited about this, and are looking forward to what we hope will be a very dynamic [tourist] season,” said Evan Smith, president of Discover Newport, the agency that promotes city tourism.

Newport intends to promote Block Island as just one more thing to do for the tourist who is spending a few days or a week in the City by the Sea. In other words, after they’ve seen the mansions on Ocean Drive, strolled Cliff Walk and taken a winery tour, these visitors to Aquidneck Island might be persuaded to extend their stay to explore the real island to their south.

And, turnabout being fair play, Newport hopes to benefit from the return trip. Whether these passengers be Block Island visitors or residents, they will now have a chance to have lunch in Newport, visit a museum, or do some upscale shopping with two convenient return times.

The Islander will live in Point Judith and travel to Perrotti Park in downtown Newport every morning at 8 a.m., arriving at 8:40 a.m. (this leg is open to passengers). It will depart for Block Island at 9 a.m., 12:05 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The boat will leave Old Harbor on Block Island for Newport at 10:30 a.m. and 5:05 p.m. The trip takes one hour. The Islander will then take her final run of the day, leaving Block Island at 8:15 p.m. and arriving in Point Judith at 8:45 p.m. That final leg of the day also is open to passengers. The fast ferry will run beginning June 29 through September 2, according to McElroy.

The company expects to carry about 130 passengers a day to Block Island from Newport, according to testimony given by Joshua Linda, vice president of Interstate Navigation, during its recent rate increase filing before the state Public Utilities Commission. The company proposed a rate of $25 for a one-way ticket or $50 round-trip, and expects that the Islander will not be profitable until its third year.

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