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New ferry operating in Westport

WESTPORT - A new ferry is helping to manage the commute for those who once relied on the Crown Point bridge.

A 48-passenger ferry is now in operation, carrying pedestrians from the Westport Marina to Basin Harbor, Vt. However, the future of its operation is unclear.

State, county, and local officials met at Westport Town Hall Oct. 22 to coordinate use of the new ferry, which is bolstered by shuttle service on both sides of the lake.

On the New York side, motorists can park at the Essex County Fairgrounds, where an Essex County Transportation Department shuttle is available to transport up to 35 passengers to the Westport Marina.

"One of my major concerns is parking," said Westport supervisor Dan Connell, suggesting 2-hour parking signs be put up along some of the streets in downtown Westport.

Mike Fayette, regional engineer for the state Department of Transportation, said such signs could be provided. County officials volunteered the use of flashing signs to direct motorists to the fairgrounds.

On the Vermont side, Addison County Transit will shuttle passengers with two busses; one to Middlebury and another to nearby Vergennes.

Brian Goodyear, director of engineering at the Basin Harbor Club, said the ferry should be very useful to large businesses in Vergennes, such as Goodrich, which has many employees who live in New York.

Each one-way trip will be roughly 20-minutes long, Goodyear said. Prices are $8 for a round trip ticket and a five-day pass costs $34. Tickets are available for sale on the boat or at certain locations in Vergennes.

The boat, named "Escape," has traditionally been used as a cruise vessel by the Basin Harbor Club. It was recently put into storage for the cold season, but when news of the bridge closing came, Goodyear said, it was brought out for use as a temporary ferry.

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