NEWORLEANS - The deadline for a private company to take over the New Orleans ferry operation has come and gone.
Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development Chief of Staff Shawn Wilson said the state's request for proposal for a company to run the ferry expired two weeks ago.
'We're disappointed that we didn't get any takers,' said Wilson. 'I don't have all of the details of why individual companies and folks of interest did not submit. I think it sends a pretty significant message about the operations and the historical operations of the ferry.'
That puts the future of the ferry, operating since 1827, very much in jeopardy.
'I can't comment on what we will do, but I will tell you that no ferry operation has successfully been privatized in the country that we're aware of,' said Wilson. 'It's something we knew going into this. We thought it was important enough to try it.'
The ferry operation is losing its cut of the Crescent City Connection tolls at the end of the year.
While the state is willing to put up some seed money and new boats, the only way to keep the ferries going is with a private operator.
Approximately 1.8 million locals and tourists ride the ferry each year.
'I think it offers a great service, right, to be able to go and explore a little bit more of the area,' said Shaun Reynolds who is visiting the city from St. Louis.
'It helps us understand a little more of the history, Old Algiers,' said Ruth Carlson also from St. Louis.
'If they take the ferry it's going different because the tourists,' said Brianna Hodges from New Orleans. 'So it would be bad if they take the ferry away.'
'I like seeing the buildings and the birds and the water,' said Ashley Johnson also from New Orleans. 'I'll really miss it if it's gone.'
'We have closed ferries unfortunately across the state because of similar situations of not having the resources,' said Wilson. 'We are going to work as best we can to provide a service where we have the resources to provide that service.'
One West Bank lawmaker said the local legislative delegation is prepared to ask DOTD to send out another RFP for the ferry. DOTD says it will follow the will of the legislature.
Veolia, the European transportation giant now running buses and streetcars in New Orleans sent Eyewitness News this statement: 'Veolia Transdev, our parent company, operates ferry systems around the world and would be excited to bring its expertise to the operation of the ferry system in New Orleans. While the company did not submit a proposal in response to the recent solicitation, Veolia remains interested in the project. Veolia looks forward to the opportunity to receive additional information regarding funding and available resources for this project enabling the company to develop a proposal that will accurately detail how Veolia can provide a world-class ferry system to the citizens of this community. As the operators of public transportation for the Regional Transit Authority, Jefferson Transit,and River Parishes Transit, Veolia Transportation is committed to building a fully integrated transit system in Greater New Orleans.'