ESSEX - Ferry service at the site of the former Lake Champlain Bridge is now in operation, but another southerly crossing has been shut down for the rest of winter.
On Feb. 2, officials at Lake Champlain Transportation, the company that owns and operates year-round ferry service between New York and Vermont, announced the closure of its Essex-Charlotte crossing following its last scheduled run on Feb. 3. It will remain closed until spring.
Heather Stewart is operations manager at Lake Champlain Transportation. She said thickening ice on the lake was quickly closing the window of opportunity to reassign ferries.
"It was our hope to keep a boat at the Essex-Charlotte crossing longer," said Stewart, "but the ice is getting thick and the skippers are saying that this is a good time to move the boats."
Prior to the closing, two ferries were in operation at the Essex-Charlotte crossing. Both will now be reassigned to crossings that anticipate higher volumes of traffic.
One ferry, the Plattsburgh, had been borrowed from the Plattsburgh-Grand Isle crossing, which normally runs three ferries year-round. With that service temporarily cut to two ferries since Jan. 14, Stewart said customers at the northernmost crossing have experienced much longer wait times.
Another ferry, the Grand Isle, traditionally operates at the Essex-Charlotte crossing year-round, but will be reassigned to the temporary crossing at Crown Point, which is already getting plenty of use in its first days of service.
"Relocating the vessels at this time allows us to restore the Grand Isle crossing back to its normal operating schedule, and ensures that there is duplication of service at Crown Point during heavy ice conditions," said Stewart in a press release.
Lake Champlain Transportation has five ferries that can operate in icy conditions. Canal passageways have been closed for the winter, making it unfeasible to add any new ferries to the fleet.