Grant for ferry nearing approval

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 14, 2013

By Richard Meek
Contributing Writer

LAPLACE – The anchor should soon be pulled on the dry-docked ferryboat and the popular service bridging the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish resumed.
Parish officials were notified Friday morning that a $1 million grant application submitted to the Louisiana Office of Community Development on Aug. 22 will likely be officially approved in the near future. Grant approval is critical to resumption of the ferry service, which links Edgard and Reserve.
“We are excited to receive the $1 million grant award to provide much needed ferry services,” Parish President Natalie Robottom said. “The Office of Community Development was instrumental in expediting this process, and we are grateful,”
Robottom said service will be restored once grant approval is finalized and an operator is secured. The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development is reviewing the final specs before the proposal can be advertised for bids, Robottom said.
Once bids are received, they will be reviewed by the administration, and a recommendation will be made to the parish council for approval.
The ferry has been shuttered since the end of July when the DODT pulled funding, which surprised administration officials because they believed they had negotiated at least one additional month via a road swap agreement. Robottom said the DODT would no longer have any participation in the operation of the ferry.
Currently, residents traversing the parish from the west bank to the east bank or vice versa must use either the Hale Boggs Bridge or the Veterans Memorial Bridge.
“Many of our residents are aware of our efforts to resume ferry service,” Robottom said. “Not many calls have been received to our office, but I’m aware of the burden this places on many of them. We hope to resume services in time before the burden of driving becomes too difficult to our residents.”
Robottom said the annual operating cost of the ferry is $2.2 million, with the DODT grant expected to fund about five months. After that funding is used, she said the parish is considering using Isaac Disaster Recovery CBDG funding to make up the difference for the remaining seven months to complete one year of service.
There is no word on yet what will happen after that.