Berkeley, WETA planning to potentially restore Pier ferry service

photo of the Berkeley pier
Katie Lee/Staff
Berkeley has teamed up with the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority in beginning the planning and feasibility phase in reopening the Berkeley Pier for ferry service.

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The city of Berkeley, in conjunction with the San Francisco Bay Area Water Emergency Transportation Authority, or WETA, is planning to potentially reopen the Berkeley Pier for ferry service.

The Berkeley Pier-Ferry Planning Project is currently in the planning and feasibility phase, according to Berkeley Parks and Waterfront Commission Secretary Roger Miller, which includes investigating its potential costs. Only the planning study has been approved at present, according to the city of Berkeley website, and its results will be presented to Berkeley City Council and WETA in late 2021 to early 2022.

If the project is determined to be feasible by the City Council and WETA, design development, engineering, environmental review and permitting would also need to be completed, according to WETA Executive Director Seamus Murphy.

It is estimated the design phase and construction phase could be completed by 2026 if deemed feasible, Miller said in an email. The project would open for operations following those phases.

The ferry would likely serve Downtown San Francisco as its primary destination, the city of Berkeley website states. Destinations such as Oracle Park, Chase Center, South San Francisco, Mission Bay, Redwood City and the North Bay are also being considered.

Due to structural safety issues, the Berkeley Pier closed July 2015, according to Miller.

In 2019, WETA approached the city of Berkeley with a proposal to study the feasibility of opening a ferry service in Berkeley. According to the city of Berkeley website, the operating costs of the ferry service would be funded by passenger fares as well as WETA.

“By partnering with WETA, a dual-purpose pier could be constructed: for ferry service and for public recreation,” Miller said in an email. “The City would contribute funding for only that part of the project that provides for public recreation and WETA would contribute funding for that part of the project that provides for ferry service.”

The original ferry service at the existing Berkeley Pier began in 1926 and ran until 1937, when the city began operating the pier for recreation and fishing, according to Miller.

In the aftermath of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, ferry service was briefly resumed, Murphy added. Private operators have more recently provided ferry service out of the Berkeley Marina.

“WETA has yet to operate ferry service at the Berkeley Pier,” Murphy said in an email.

According to the city of Berkeley website, there is an “unused/derelict” portion of the existing Municipal Pier known as the “Berkeley Ruins,” which is about three miles long beyond the 3,000-ft pier. The “main focus” of the planning study is on building a new pier, but the study is also looking at removing a portion of the Berkeley Ruins for potential boat access and bird roosting habitats.

Miller invited the Berkeley community to provide their feedback at a Zoom meeting Oct. 27 — more information can be found on the project website.

Lauren Good is a higher education reporter. Contact her at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @lgooddailycal.