ESSEX - Many local residents are eagerly anticipating the beginning of ferry service at the site of the recently closed Champlain Bridge, but some fear a more northerly crossing may suffer as a result.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation is currently in negotiations with Lake Champlain Transportation (LCT), operators of year-round ferries on the lake, for ferry service between Crown Point and Chimney Point, Vt.
LCT Operations Manager Heather Stewart said the company, owned by Ray Pecor, III, still has yet to decide how it will manage ferry service at the new docks, which are still under construction.
"We're still formulating what we need to do," said Stewart, noting the company is waiting to see the directives that are handed down from officials on both sides of the lake. "We don't know what they will request for ferries."
Stewart said the likely scenario would be to send two of LCT's five icebreaking ferries to serve the Crown Point crossing. The other three would remain in service at the Plattsburgh-Grand Isle crossing.
If that is done, LCT would likely put the ferry boat Adirondack into service as the lone ferry at the Essex-Charlotte crossing, said Stewart, but the boat, which was built in 1913, has a riveted hull that is not suitable for operation in ice conditions. It has traditionally served LCT's Port Kent-Burlington crossing, which closes from mid-October through May.
In the meantime, Stewart said, LCT is already making plans to expand the Essex-Charlotte crossing to 24-hour service, effective Dec. 28, in order to serve commuters who work late shifts. Currently, the latest ferry leaves Essex at 9:30 p.m.
"We've hired a lot of new deckhands and dock masters, and we're trying to get them trained to keep those hours open," said Stewart. "That's been our focus right now."
Some people in and around Essex are concerned, however, that the Essex-Charlotte crossing may have to close if there are no icebreaker ferries left there to operate.