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Paul Murphy / Eyewitness News
Email: pmurphy@wwltv.com | Twitter: @pmurphywwl

RESERVE, La. - For now, the Reserve-Edgard ferry is operating on its normal schedule on the Mississippi River.

Louisiana's Department of Transportation was prepared to take the boat that links East and West St. John Parish out of service because of a lack of funding.

Riders say that would be a hardship for residents trying to get to their jobs and the parish courthouse on the west bank or stores and restaurants on the east bank.

'It saves a good 30 to 40 minutes going down to the bridge and everything in Gramercy,' said Christina Miller.

'Everything is across the river,' said Edgard resident Mary Pablo. 'We have nothing on this side. So, the ferry is more convenient.'

'I work for an electrical company and we're doing some work over here in Edgard,' said Sean Bradley. 'It would really cripple us if we can't cross on the ferry.'

The Office of Community Development has agreed to fund the ferry on a short term basis. St. John leaders hope to use that time to find a permanent source of funding.

'Our initial meeting with DOTD suggested that we would have two months to possibly work with other private providers to find someone to actually manage it for us,' said St. John Parish President Natalie Robottom.

She says the parish can cobble together much of the money needed to run the ferry by increasing the $1 fare and agreeing to take over road maintenance of some state highways.

Robottom is now reaching out to Veolia, the company that runs the buses and streetcars in New Orleans and bus service in the River Parishes.

It's the same company now considering a deal to manage the Chalmette and Algiers-Canal Street ferries.

'If they're going to be in that business, then probably they could find some efficiencies by operating three versus two,' said Robottom. 'We understand the state's getting out of the ferry business. The parish does not have the capacity to run it and anybody who does has to be able to make a profit.'

State Senator Gary Smith, D-Norco says during the last legislative session, there was a deal to keep the ferry going through the end of the year.

'When we left the session, we had some tentative agreements in place that it would be funded for the next year,' said Smith. 'Now some of those agreements are shifting to who's going to run it - the state versus the local or some other cooperative endeavor.'

Smith says there may be some federal funds available to help keep the ferry going. 'See if there's some grants out there that maybe available to operate this ferry because it's important. It connects two important state highways.'

About 200,000 vehicles cross the river on the Reserve-Edgard Ferry every year.

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