Long Island: So close to CT, yet so far away

The Cross-Sound Ferry in New London takes about 80 minutes to reach Orient Point on Long Island. (Beyond My Ken, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons)
Jim Cameron is founder of the Commuter Action Group and advocates for Connecticut rail riders. He writes a weekly column called “Talking Transportation” for CT Mirror and other publications in the state. Read past columns by clicking on the photo. Contact Jim at [email protected].

On a clear day you can see it from the Connecticut shoreline (only about 20 miles away).  But actually getting to Long Island often involves a very long, out-of-the-way journey.

Maybe you’re going to LaGuardia or JFK.  Or a Met’s game at Citi Field.  Perhaps you’ll want to see the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park. Or a Nets game in downtown Brooklyn (yes, officially a part of Long Island).  Or maybe you fancy a summer beach trip to the Hamptons or Montauk.  They’re all on Long Island… along with eight million residents.

With so much to do on Long Island, one wonders why it’s so hard to get there from Connecticut.

Assuming you’re driving, most people take the usually crowded (and forever-under-construction) Throggs Neck or Whitestone bridges, always a delight.  Or if you’re a real masochist you could drive to the RFK (Tri-Borough) Bridge connecting the mainland Bronx to Queens.  Want to avoid paying tolls?  You’ve got to first go into Manhattan, then take the 59th St., Manhattan, Williamsburg or Brooklyn Bridges.  You’ll save a few bucks but it will cost you a lot of time.

History buffs will remember that developer czar Robert Moses once proposed a bridge and causeway from Rye (in Westchester County) to Oyster Bay (in Nassau County).  The 1966 plan would have seen a 6.1 mile cable-stayed bridge costing $150 million ($1.4 billion in today’s inflated dollars).  Seen as an extension of I-287 it would have connected with Long Island’s Seaford – Oyster Bay Expressway.  Of course, the plan never went through.

Back in 2018, Republican State Senator Carl Marcellino was among New York officials speaking out against a potential tunnel or bridge connecting Long Island to Westchester County. (Vinny Ball | WSHU)

But in 2007 the idea was revived, this time as a two-tube tunnel with three lanes in each direction.  This would have been the longest in the world.  Price tag:  up to $16 billion.  That, too, never went anywhere.

There are two ferry boats connecting Connecticut and Long Island:  the Bridgeport – Port Jefferson ferry (a 75 minute crossing first established by PT Barnum in 1883) and  the New London – Orient Point ferry (an 80 minute cruise).  Both are well patronized, especially in the summer.  The Bridgeport ferry is even building a 300 foot-long new boat, the “Long Island,” due early next year.

The “Long Island” due to go into service early next year. (Courtesy the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company)

Amtrak has been dreaming of a cross-Sound railroad tunnel as a high-speed rail alternative to its current tracks along the Connecticut shore, but those ideas are still in the “hopeful and maybe” but unfunded stage.

What is a reality now is a much better rail connection between Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad.  No longer do you have to schlep from Grand Central to Penn Station (a taxi ride or two subways).  Now you can arrive at GCT and just go downstairs to Grand Central Madison, the LIRR’s new station 140 feet under Vanderbilt Avenue.  You can even buy a through-ticket, say, from New Haven to Montauk:  a six hour trip costing only $25.75 off-peak, one-way.

So yes, you can get to Long Island from the Nutmeg State.  It just won’t be easy or fast.


One response to “Long Island: So close to CT, yet so far away”

  1. Kelly Wheeler

    I remember last summer, a friend of mine has another friend who has a beach house in the Hamptons. She knew the way to get there by road so I let her drive but we would have to leave early on that Sunday morning to avoid traffic. She knew a few different ways but eventually we did get on the long island expressway and we were on the beach in about an hour & a half from my Norwalk home to the Hamptons. I’m the kind of person who would prefer to avoid the chaos that is going to NY. I much more prefer to drive to Northern NY than southern NY so if there is an easier way like by train or boat, I’ll take it. If I go into the city, I take the train, but a few falls ago, I took the ferry from Bridgeport to Port Jeff to meet a friend in Long Island and decided to bring my vehicle along on the ferry ride across. Though costly, it was very much worth it. The staff on the boat were very helpful and the ride took no time and in my opinion, like I said, costly, having my own vehicle, avoiding the tolls, the hustle and bustle of driving through the city including avoiding the wear and tear and just getting from point A to point B with the ferry seems pretty worth while to me.

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