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DOTD not living up to ferry agreement

By Kimberly Hopson
L’Observateur

LAPLACE – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development released surprising information recently that could seal the fate of the Reserve/Edgard ferry for good.
The agency said that the Streamlining Commission recommended the ferry be closed permanently on Friday, June 28, based on low ridership and the availability of a reasonable alternative river crossing.
Operations will continue as normal until the date of closure. After June 28, motorists wishing to cross the river will need to cross via the Gramercy Bridge.
The recommendations were approved by the Legislature. Approximately 193,000 drivers and 5,900 pedestrians used the Edgard/Reserve ferry last fiscal year, translating to less than 750 individual daily users.
According to a press release issued by the DOTD, closing the ferry will save the state approximately $2.2 million per year. The closure is expected to save taxpayers more than $3.5 million a year.
The DOTD also said officials with St. John the Baptist Parish are currently considering taking over ferry operations, but Parish President Natalie Robottom said the story is quite the opposite.
“Once again, DOTD has not lived up to its end of the bargain and continues to try to force the parish into an agreement without putting in the time or the effort to develop a sound plan,” said Robottom.
“They are trying to coerce the parish into taking over the ferry with no assurance of funding or an identified operator before they will grant the two-month extension. They are very aware that the parish does not have the knowledge or experience required to maintain or operate a ferry but are willing to take the risk,” she continued.  
Robottom said the parish’s legal counsel does not recommend taking over the ferry but added that her administration has held true to its commitments.
“Both of our senators sit on the Senate Transportation Committee and the representatives need to engage as well. We’ve approved a road-swap agreement, are in talks with possible operators and have been working with the Office of Community Development on a funding opportunity. That’s what we agreed to and that is what we have done and what we will continue to do,” she said.
“It is a sad day in Louisiana when the Department of Transportation is willing to turn over operations of a state-run ferry to a local government with limited capacity, all in the name of reducing the number of state employees and the size of government. Who cares about the people and their safety?” added Robottom.
For more information, visit www.dotd.la.gov, email dotdcs@la.gov, or call the DOTD’s Customer Service Center at 225-379-1232 or 1-877-4LADOTD (1-877-452-3683). Business hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.