Photo via Seastreak

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The fifth season of the Providence-Newport Ferry is in jeopardy.

With the impacts of COVID-19, What’s Up Newp reached out to Seastreak and Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) to get a gauge on what the pandemic means for the popular ferry service.

“Although we can not speak to how the service would be configured as that would be determined by SeaStreak, we can address where we are in our considerations,” Lisbeth Pettengill, Director of Communications told What’s Up Newp on Tuesday. 

“RIDOT is assessing all the factors that influence when and whether we may start the Providence/Bristol/Newport ferry service.  The decision depends on the directives from the governor’s office and the Department of Health,” Pettengill told What’s Up Newp. “It also depends on how much time is left in the season once the governor thinks it may be okay to open some venues.  A successful ferry service needs a long start up time to set up the ticketing, the barge, the dock, and to do sufficient outreach for riders”. 

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The Providence-Newport ferry is is made possible by RhodeWorks, a program of Rhode Island Department of Transportation. For the last four years, Seastreak has been the operator of the service, utilizing the ferry Ocean State.

In 2019, ferries ran between Providence and Newport from May 25th Columbus Day Weekend. The service operated seven days a week, with three round trips daily during spring and fall shoulder seasons and four round trips during peak season and on weekends.

In 2019, the ferry added service to Bristol, on weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

“Working with SeaStreak, RIDOT hopes to make a decision by mid-May.  We would not, however, anticipate starting ferry service before the end of June at the earliest if we do decide to go forward”, Pettengill concluded.

At the beginning of last season, RIDOT announced 120,000 tickets had been sold since the ferry debuted in Summer 2016. RIDOT conducted a survey of passengers during the 2018 season and found that those who traveled to Newport solely because of the ferry on average spent about $78 per person.

A request for comment from Seastreak was not responded to.

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