Reserve-Edgard ferry safe for another year

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2012



LAPLACE – Just before the end of the 2012 Legislative session Monday evening, state lawmakers representing the River Parishes received assurances that the Reserve-Edgard ferry would be safe for at least another year.

State Sens. Gary Smith and Troy Brown, who each represent portions of St. John the Baptist Parish, both confirmed Monday that they had gotten commitments from Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration that the ferry service would continue in both St. John Parish and in White Castle in Iberville Parish. Both ferries were on the chopping block as part of state budget cuts.

“We asked for one more year so that we could get together at the parish level to devise a way to keep the ferry economical and functional for residents,” Smith said. “That strategy process begins immediately.”

State transportation officials earlier this year had suggested the elimination of the ferry services because the $3 million annual cost did not come close to the amount of money collected on vehicle tolls. Initial estimates said the ferries only generated about $30,500 a year.

During an appearance before a state house committee, officials in St. John had disputed those numbers and also argued that the state had already pumped a large amount of funding into refurbishing ferry landings in previous years. It was also noted that the closest river crossings are outside the parish and that estimates did not take into account the number of pedestrians who use the ferry.

Brown said a closer look at the numbers made continuing the ferry service more feasible than previously thought. He said a more detailed look at operational costs and toll structure showed that the Reserve-Edgard ferry’s costs and revenues were not as far apart as it once seemed.

“The funding gap is small,” Brown said. “If we can work to formulate an effective strategy with local leaders, continued funding of the ferry could be something the state would be more willing to swallow.”

Smith said part of the planning process could include having the parish assume control of smaller state roads leading to the ferry, saving the state money on upkeep and maintenance.

“The parish has already expressed interest in that possibility,” Smith said. “We now just need to make sure all are on board at all levels. Nothing is finalized yet.”

Smith said the ferry will be funded for the 12-month period ending June 30, 2013.

“We will have to continue to fight, but we bought some time to come up with a plan,” Smith said.