Long Branch sets meeting on ferry, pier proposals

SOURCE: APP.com · PUBLISHED: October 17, 2010 · AUTHOR: Carol Gorga Williams

LONG BRANCH — Officials have set aside two nights later this month to review designs, cost estimates and engineering specifics for the proposed pier and ferry project, with one night devoted to public comment on the measure.

City Business Administrator Howard H. Woolley Jr. said the City Council likely will not make any final decisions at these meetings, planned for 5 p.m. Oct. 25 and 6 p.m. Oct. 28, because members may need time to consider various options.

The council sessions will include Mayor Adam Schneider, administration members, McLaren Engineering, which is preparing the plans, and Skanska USA, a consultant the city hired in August for $198,954 to review McLaren's work to determine which designs are economically viable.

"The council will be able to ask questions, understand what the various alternatives are and the expense of each," Woolley said. "The council announced (Tuesday) night that it was encouraging as many people as possible to show up so people will understand that they are trying to make this process as transparent as possible."

The city has no final price tag for the pier, but officials have a target figure of $91.5 million. The core pier and ferry operation are estimated to cost $56.5 million, to be garnered from federal transportation money, Woolley said. City officials hope the remainder of the funding — some $30 million or so — could come from the so-called pier "amenity" program, such as leases from entertainment venues that hope to operate on the pier.

"This is a very far-reaching project, and they will need time to talk about things before they move forward," Woolley said of the council.

This new structure would replace the one destroyed by fire in 1987. Officials say the facility may include ferry service, which was standard in the Presidential City 100 years or so ago.

City officials have spent the last few months lobbying neighboring governments and other agencies to support the proposal. Asbury Park officials were enthusiastic, and Woolley has made presentations to the Monmouth County freeholders, NJ Transit, the Monmouth County Planning Board and the economic development committee of the Monmouth/Ocean Development Council.

The city on June 18 held a public meeting at which attendees seemed to favor a circular pier design with pods coming off the circle for entertainment and other uses. Now, Skanska must determine what such a design could cost. Because it involves more decking than a standard straight pier, the cost could be prohibitive, officials said.