POSTED: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 5:00am
UPDATED: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 - 11:42am
RESERVE, LA (NBC33) — Commuters in St. John the Baptist Parish are getting ready to say goodbye their beloved Edgard/Reserve Ferry. The DOTD officials announced the ferry will make its last ride today, Wednesday. DOTD officials say the move will help save the state $2.2 million a year. Riders explained they are losing their ‘lifeline’ to the other side of the river.
"We don't really have anything on the west bank of the river. We have to come to east bank for almost everything: shopping, working," Demond Johnson, ferry rider, said.
Starting Thursday, riders will have to travel 21 miles to the Gramercy Bridge to cross the river.
"Pretty soon if they close the ferry, then we will basically be working for gas money. You won't have any money left over to do anything for your family," Johnson exclaimed.
"It makes me feel bad, because some days I won't be able to come across when I want to come across.," Kajuana Mitchell, ferry rider, said .
Dustin Annison, with the DOTD, said, “Approximately 193,000 drivers and 5,900 pedestrians used the Edgard/Reserve ferry last fiscal year, which translates to less than 750 individual daily users.”
Now Ferry users stated they are willing do whatever it takes to keep the ferry open.
"If they want to keep the ferry running, and just raise the price of the trip, then we'll gladly pay more money,” Johnson said. “I'll pay five dollars one way."
St. John the Baptist Parish Officials stated they are even willing to foot the bill. They want to take over the ferry and pay for a company to operate the ferry.
DOTD officials released a statement last week stating, “The ferry was scheduled to close permanently on Friday, June 28; however, DOTD agreed to continue operating the ferry through July 31 after the department received a memorandum of understanding from Parish President Natalie Robottom. The Parish agreed that the state would no longer operate the ferry service after July 31st. The extension was to allow the Parish to work to identify a funding source and to plan their takeover of operations.”
But parish leaders say they need the DOTD to extend state ferry operations until the parish can take over in September.
Paige Falgoust, communications director for St. John the Baptist Parish, said in release: “In June, the Parish Council approved a road transfer resolution valued at $647,000, with $400,000 for operation of the ferry until September 1, 2013. The Parish Administration has worked with the Office of Community Development to complete the application process and it is currently on track for a public hearing and approval. These additional funds could continue ferry operations for an additional 6 months, if the fare is increased and the schedule is adjusted. However, utilization of these funds requires public hearings and procurement of an operator through a public bid. One month is not enough time to complete the process of securing an operator.”
Falgoust said without the extension there would be no ferry service through at least September. She explained the parish would continue to fight to take over the ferry either way.
Until then, riders are forced to make some tough decisions.
“I will have to leave early. I might even have to transfer my daughter to a different school. I really wanted her to go to West Saint John,” Mitchell said.
So far, the DOTD has not granted an extension for the ferry.
The Edgard reserve ferry is the second ferry closure this year.
In June, the state shut down the White Castle ferry. DOTD officials said the two closures would save $3.5 million a year.