POINTE-A-LA -HACHE, La. - Structural concerns at the Pointe-a-la-Hache Ferry Landing forced Plaquemines Parish to shut it down on Wednesday. The abrupt closure is concerning to residents who use the ferry on a daily basis.
'We use this ferry to commute with grocery, doctors, drug stores, work,' said Pointe-a-la-Hache resident Mike Rodriguez. He was one of a handful of passengers who rode the ferry on its last voyage across that stretch of the Mississippi on Wednesday. The mode of transportation shut down indefinitely.
'This is a viable means of transportation for lower Plaquemines Parish. Now all of sudden today they say they got a letter from the D.O.T. and they're going to shutdown this thing today without any notification to the residents,' said Rodriguez.
With the ferry landing now closed passengers have to drive about 30 miles to the Belle Chase Ferry Landing or drive from the east bank to the west bank and that can take an hour or more. Residents in lower Plaquemines Parish say that is both a waste of gas and time.
'We knew this day was coming. The repairs we continually did there were band-aids and there are structural problems,' said Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. On Wednesday, Nungesser was asked by LADOTD to close the ferry landing because of structural concerns. He says the Belle Chase Ferry is also in need of $1-2-million in repairs. Nungesser's solution is to scrap both landings and build one central ferry terminal for the entire parish.
'We believe the administration that it's a win-win for the parish to have one location, in the middle of the parish with better service,' said Nungesser who adds that the Army Corps of Engineers doesn't advise repairing or rebuilding at the Pointe-a-la-Hache Ferry site.
'This is going to cause a lot of people problems,' said Rodriguez as he watched his neighbors being turned away from the river transportation they depend on. The Plaquemines Parish resident hopes something can be done to insure the return of the ferry.
'I want to know when and how are they going to fix this? That's my point right now and how long will it take?,' said Rodriguez.
LADOTD says it conducted two recent inspections at the ferry landing in 2011 and 2012. After a January 2013 inspection it determined that the landing was not suitable for vehicular traffic. LADOTD says it will remain closed until corrective action is taken by Plaquemines Parish.
Parish ferry records show that just over 103,000 cars/trucks and about 1,700 pedestrians used the ferry in 2012. The Parish says its currently costs about $6 million per year to run all of its ferries.