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Hingham ferry has key role as transit hub

Congressman Bill Delahunt's $7.5 million federal earmark for retention and expansion of the commuter boat facilities at the Hingham Shipyard (''Greenbush adds to cloud over commuter boats," Globe South, Oct. 16) is an extraordinary 30th birthday gift for the Hingham ferry riders, who come from all over the South Shore.

The Hingham commuter boat started off as a regional transportation project in 1975, with a single trip each way each day, and about 70 regular riders.

That it got underway at all was due to the ''can-do" genius of Ed King, then head of the Massachusetts Port Authority and who later was elected governor. He came down to Hingham, recognized the value of the Hingham Shipyard property, and his agency provided the first public funds in concert with other private commitments -- Bay State Cruises' boat operator Dick Nakashian, Colonial Coastal Corporation manager Paul Neelon, and South Shore Chamber executive Eric Swider. Several South Shore towns were active advocates as well. Many terrific South Shore legislators and individuals were also key to starting and continuing the ferry service.

Because of the Hingham commuter boat's current ridership and parking capacity (about 2,000), the commuter boat access roads, parking, and terminal facilities are today recognized as a national intermodal connector -- an integral part of the National Highway System. This designation could also apply to other ferry terminals in Boston Harbor -- Quincy Fore River, and the Boston Waterfront, which meet federal criteria as well. All of these locations are eligible for highway, transit, congestion management air quality, and other federal funds that could be used to enhance the value of this earmark. With Senator Bob Hedlund's successful efforts to make bond funds available for ferry projects in Massachusetts, there are state matching dollars as well.

I urge Secretary John Cogliano of the Executive Office of Transportation to work with the South Shore legislators to spearhead an interagency task force including the highway commissioner, MBTA general manager, MassPort director, Department of Natural Resources commissioner, Office of Commonwealth Development staff, and Boston Harbor ferry commuter interests, and to set forth a challenge to make this project, in conjunction with SeaChain, the best intermodal center and the best transit-oriented development center in the United States.

Massachusetts should reach out to the world with a request for design and architectural proposals. There is absolutely no reason Hingham's Intermodal Transportation Center can't be the very best.

MARTHA A. R. BEWICK Advocates for Transportation AlternativesHingham

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