Cross Sound Ferry
Cross Sound Ferry is a passenger and road vehicle ferry service operating between New London, Connecticut and Orient, Long Island, New York. The service is privately owned and operated by Cross Sound Ferry Services, Inc., headquartered in New London. According to the company's website, it serves over one million passengers annually.
Geographic imperative for service
Long Island extends more than 110 miles east-northeastward from the East River in New York City. Its north shore roughly parallels the southern shore of the State of Connecticut, separated from the latter first by the East River and then by Long Island Sound. Though there have been multiple proposals to bridge the sound at various points, there is currently no bridge, nor any active plans for a bridge east of the Throgs Neck Bridge that extends from the New York City Borough of Queens to the Borough of The Bronx. Therefore, Long Island motorists located east of that bridge must first drive west, cross one of the three city bridges to the mainland, and then drive east to reach most New England destinations. This circuitous route could, at the extreme, add as much as 200 miles to a trip to or from Long Island to New London and points north and east. In addition to the saving in mileage, use of the ferry or the other major Long Island-Connecticut ferry from Port Jefferson to Bridgeport, Connecticut avoids heavy urban traffic in New York City and on Interstate 95 in Connecticut.
The company owns a fleet of seven vehicle-passenger ferries and a single high-speed, passenger-only ferry, the Sea Jet I. The fleet consists of both new build vessels and vessels retrofitted at sister company, Thames Shipyard and Repair in New London. The fleet has been added to and upgraded over the years due to serve a surge in demand for service caused by a number of factors, including the growth of Long Island's population, congestion on all-highway routes and, more recently, the opening of gambling casinos near New London. Of two casinos, the most notable is Foxwoods, who now has a partnership with MGM Grand.
Of the eight vessels, the most notable is the MV Cape Henlopen. At 327 feet and with a capacity of 90 vehicles and 900 passengers, Cape Henlopen is the longest in the fleet. She was originally built as the World War II tank-landing ship, USS LST 510, and landed on Omaha Beach during the Battle of Normandy invasion, for which she has received a battle star. Following her military retirement, she was converted to civilian ferry use. The other ferries are the 'John H' (built 1989), the 'Mary Ellen' (built 1983, previously the Grand Republic of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Ferry), the 'Susan Anne' (built 1964 as MV Prince Nova), the 'New London' (built 1979), the 'North Star' (built 1968 as the offshore supply vessel MV Pelto Seahorse) and the 'Caribbean' (built 1972). The 'Caribbean' and the 'North Star' are the two smallest in the fleet, however, the North Star's public licence has since expired and is now only used for private services to Fisher's Island and Plum Island. The Caribbean, however, does still run, but it only runs in the summer.
On the New England side, the ferry is located near Mystic and the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, Mystic Seaport and Olde Mistick Village. The city of Providence and Newport, Rhode Island are within an hour's drive from the New London terminal. Boston and the Cape Cod bridges can be reached in two hours or less. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort casinos are 20 minutes from the ferry terminal in New London.
On the Long Island side, the ferry is located within Long Island Wine Country and its collection of over 30 wineries located on Long Island's North Fork. The maritime village of Greenport is just 10 minutes away. Montauk and the Hamptons are within an hour and a half drive of the Orient Point terminal.
Attempts to establish a service on Long Island's South Fork
For more than 20 years, Cross Sound Ferry has attempted to establish service between New London and the South Fork of Long Island in East Hampton Town. A local ordinance passed by the Town in 1997 prohibits vehicle ferry service within the Town's borders and places limits on the speeds of passenger vessels. A recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals, 2nd Circuit has sent back an earlier decision upholding the anti-ferry law. This decision represents a significant victory for supporters and potential users of a direct service to East Hampton.
Cross Sound is also seeking to improve its terminal facilities at Orient Point by creating additional parking at the terminal to accommodate the demand for its service. Currently, cars park along the shoulders of New York State Route 25 to use the ferry service when the terminal lots are filled. This improvement will accommodate all East End users of the ferry service and will meet the demands of the traveling public.
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