NEW ORLEANS — Two brand new ferry boats arrived in New Orleans about a year ago to replace the 60-year-old, oft-broken down ferry boats that traverse the waters between Algiers and New Orleans CBD.
They have yet to transport ferry patrons and no one seems to know when that will change.
“RTA and Metal Shark owe an explanation and a clear timeline of when we can expect the vessels, which have been delayed for more than a year, to go into service,” said Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer.
Neighbors in Algiers Point who use the ferries on a regular basis said that the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) and Transdev, the company that operates the boats, has done a very poor job communicating why the sleek new passenger ferries are still not in use.
Monday morning the ‘new’ boats could be found parked along the river not far from the Chalmette ferry landing in Algiers.
The state purchased both boats, which carry about 150 passengers, for about $5 million apiece from shipbuilder Metal Shark of Jeanerette.
“The boats were paid for in cash, essentially,” said Algiers Point Association Vice President Skip Gallagher. “There’s no bond to pay back. Yet, a year later you have the boats parked with almost no explanation from Transdev.”
According to an October 2018 inspection report obtained by WWL-TV, the boats suffer from a number of problems, including the possibility of corrosion where different types of metal connect.
Metal Shark told WWL-TV that the company and the RTA are working to address the concerns and issues.
While that drags on, passengers continue to watch as the current ferries break down, requiring a bus to pick up people and take them across the Crescent City Connection to the drop off point on the east bank – and vice versa. It’s a trip that can be more time consuming.
The ferry was down again Monday, prompting Gallagher to complain that if the new boats aren’t going to be used, at least keep the old ones in good repair.
“I don’t know what to do to stimulate Transdev to actually be open and honest,” he said. But, I got to say at this point in the last couple of years, they have not been. They simply will not speak about what’s going on.”
When the ferry isn’t running, Algiers Point businesses suffer. Robert Casey of the Dry Dock Café said his business drops 30 to 40 percent when they are down.
At the time of the story airing, neither the RTA nor Transdev had answered a request by WWL-TV for comment.