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St. John commits to transfer of ferry operations

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development announced Thursday that it has received a commitment from St. John the Baptist Parish officials to transfer Edgard/Reserve ferry operations to the parish. To assist in the transition, the DOTD has agreed to extend ferry service at the Edgard/Reserve landing approximately two to four weeks, utilizing road transfer funds provided by the parish.
The ferry was scheduled to permanently close on Friday, June 28.
Through a memorandum of understanding, St. John the Baptist Parish officials commit to taking over future ferry operations. Additionally, the parish will assume responsibility for portions of state-owned highways in exchange for extending service during the transition. The highways the parish will take responsibility of include Louisiana Highway 3223 from U.S. Highway 61 to Louisiana Highway 44 and Louisiana Highway 3224 from U.S. 61 to Highway 44. The two-to-four-week extension will allow local officials more time to secure funding for ferry operations.
The DOTD will operate the ferry for approximately two to four weeks, pending staff availability. Because of the late nature of the agreement and the existing layoff plan in place for state ferry employees, staff resources are limited. Edgard/Reserve ferry service hours have already begun to be adjusted based on staffing constraints. Current hours, which are subject to change, are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In the past few years, the DOTD has begun to implement the Streamlining Commission’s recommendations to close specific ferries that do not provide state or regional transportation connectivity and are primarily local transit services. The state closed the St. Francisville and Melville ferries, which saved Louisiana taxpayers approximately $2.7 million. In addition to the Edgard/Reserve ferry, the White Castle ferry was scheduled for closure in 2013.
Approximately 193,000 drivers and 5,900 pedestrians used the Edgard/Reserve ferry last fiscal year, which translates to fewer than 750 individual daily users.
St. John the Baptist Parish President Natalie Robottom and Sherri LeBas, secretary for the Department of Transportation and Development, were in talks late into the night Wednesday to extend Reserve/Edgard ferry services at least two weeks beyond the most recent end date of June 28, allowing the parish more time to work on an operations and maintenance plan for the ferry.