Students are still awaiting the completion of the Rochester Fast Ferry, which will link the ports of Rochester and Toronto. This project, which is expected to start service in May 2004, may provide students with better opportunities for travel to Toronto and the rest of Canada.

The initial service date for the Rochester Fast Ferry was intended for this summer, but the 2004 launch date was announced by Canadian American Transport Systems in November. Financing has caused the project to run into several serious delays since it was first proposed nearly a decade ago, but the City of Rochester and CATS seem confident that the current launch date will be the final one.

For students, this ferry will be an easier way of getting to Toronto, saving them the 3-4 hour driving trip around Lake Ontario. Grad student Stephen Gent questioned paying for a trip that only saved a few hours.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunities in Toronto — there’s access to resources and access to other activities,” CATS Director of Business Development Don Naetzker said.

Most students see Toronto as a desirable travel destination. “Toronto is a great city with a lot of art and culture,” senior Charlotte Cline said.Sophomore Toby Teel agrees. “Toronto is a way hotter city than Rochester,” Teel said.

No marketing or pricing plan has been finalized at this time, although students may find themselves as targeted customers once the initial service date draws closer.

Naetzker said that CATS would work to identify the various niches of customers to whom the project would appeal. “Clearly, one of the markets it’s going to be appealing to is, of course young professionals, but also college students,” Naetzker said.

Meanwhile, the $42.5 million ship being built for Rochester has been put up for sale by its builders, the Australian firm Austal Ltd. Austal announced in late January that the ship would be available to any bidder who could accept delivery this year to prevent the ship from lying in anchor for the winter. CATS originally ordered the ship to be delivered for an August launch date.

Austal now estimates that the ship currently being built will be finished in Australia in June or July. Austal would construct a new ship for CATS if it sells the current one.

The current vessel, as yet unnamed, will run between three and six round-trip services per day and will be capable of carrying over 200 cars and over 700 passengers.

Austal has built other catamarans, which are in service in the Baltic, the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia. They have also developed catamarans for the U.S. Navy. The twin catamaran will be the first civilian project for Austal in the United States.

Funding for the project has come from multiple sources, including recent state and federal loans. Once the project is completed, the ferry will provide a new link between the cities, though there has been concern that tourism will not travel both ways — Rochester-area tourists are expected to visit Toronto in far greater numbers than Canadian tourists are expected to visit Rochester.

“I don’t think any of my friends from Toronto are going to want to come to Rochester,” Gent said.

Skepticism has been voiced about the loss of tourism dollars from Rochester tourists taking their money to Toronto.

Another connected project, is the reconstruction of the Genesee River pier and seawall, along with other improvments to Rochester port facilities.

According to a “Democrat & Chronicle” report, this job will be completed by Crane-Hogan Structural Systems. Federal funds will pay for most of the construction of the waterfront ferry terminal and for the renovation.

Brown can be reached at

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