St. John ferry

Passengers get off a late-arriving ferry on St. John. A bill set to repair and improve the Boynes ferry dock in Cruz Bay was approved by lawmakers. Construction is expected to begin next summer.

V.I. lawmakers on Friday advanced a bill to repair and revamp the Boynes ferry dock in Cruz Bay, the vital gateway to St. John which has long fallen into disrepair.

Voting unanimously in favor of Bill 33-0362, the Senate Finance Committee agreed to appropriate $900,000 from the St. John Capital Improvement Fund to pay for the project. The revamped dock and facility will include a new roof and canopy, a restroom, new lighting and a generator.

Construction is expected to begin next summer.

V.I. Port Authority Assistant Executive Director Damian Cartwright said the project will require a Coastal Zone Management permit and a Nationwide permit from the Army Corps of Engineers since work will be done above federal waters.

“We plan to start the permitting process early next year,” he said.

Cartwright added that construction will not disrupt normal operations and that the Port Authority will coordinate with the ferry companies to find windows of opportunity to work, including at night.

Finance Chairman Kurt Vialet lauded the bill as another example of the Port Authority revitalizing critical infrastructure around the territory.

“Along with a large number of tourists going to St. John on a regular basis, there’s a large number of school children that go back and forth and a large number of local individuals who work and have to traverse the waters on a regular basis … so this is a good start,” he said.

According to Cartwright’s testimony, the project will begin with repairing the facility’s concrete dock. The repair will consist of roughening the deck surface and pouring a concrete overlay to restore deck finish and extend the pier service life.

The project will also include a new roofing system, as well as a new aluminum-framed canopy structure that will be constructed on the south and east sides of the pier.

“During heavy rainfall, water seeps into the passenger waiting area, making it unbearable for passengers to wait for vessel departure,” Cartwright said.

The restroom will be built as a unisex facility due to limited space. The restroom will be a standalone building housing and a Americans With Disabilities Act-complaint bathroom at the east end of the ferry pier.

Cartwright said the project will bring the Boynes Dock into compliance with federal safety and disability requirements.

“It will also provide an upgraded and modernized port of entry for St. John and enhance the island’s tourism product,” he said.

Bill 33-0362 moves to the Rules and Judiciary Committee for further vetting.

Voting in favor were senators Oakland Benta, Marvin Blyden, Dwayne DeGraff, Donna Frett-Gregory, Janelle Sarauw and Kurt Vialet.

— Contact A.J. Rao at 340-714-9104 or email ajrao@dailynews.vi.