Essex ferry back in service

ESSEX - Those wanting to cross Lake Champlain at a more central location will soon be able to do so.

Lake Champlain Transportation, the company that operates most of the lake's ferry service, has announced the re-opening of the Essex-Charlotte ferry crossing, effective March 22.

The crossing, which has traditionally run year-round, was closed Feb. 2 after its winter-worthy ferries were diverted to the Plattsburgh-Grand Isle crossing and the new 24-hour, state-subsidized crossing at the former site of the now demolished Crown Point Bridge.

Ferry service will run between Essex, N.Y, and Charlotte, Vt., Monday through Friday from March 22 until April 2. Beginning April 5, The Essex-Charlotte crossing will expand to a seven-day-a-week schedule.

The Adirondack, one of the fleet's oldest ferries, built in 1913, will be the lone vessel at the crossing for the time being. It has a 20-ton weight limit and 11-foot-4-inch clearance for vehicles. The Adirondack has traditionally operated at the Port Kent-Burlington crossing, where its spacious upper deck seating is popular among passengers.

"She is a great boat, but she is not a winter boat," explained Heather Stewart, operations manager for LCT.

With winter coming to a close amid a string of warm temperatures, conditions that precluded use of the ferry have all but gone.

"We don't have to worry if the boiler that heats the engine room breaks down, causing pipes to freeze and doing a lot of damage," Stewart explained.

The Essex-Charlotte ferry had been temporarily subsidized prior to its closing, allowing passengers to cross for free. That will not be the case when it re-opens.

"It is a paid ferry, though people can use commuter tickets," said Stewart. "It's basically back to normal."

"The rates are the same as they were in 2009 and the same as they were in 2008," she added.

The Gov. George D. Aiken, a ferry that has long operated at the Essex-Charlotte crossing, is currently undergoing an engine refit, and should return there around May 24, restoring two-boat service.

In addition, the Port Kent-Burlington crossing is scheduled to re-open for the season June 17. Stewart said 24-hour service will continue at both the Plattsburgh-Grand Isle and Crown point crossings.

For more information about rates and schedules for any of the Lake Champlain Transportation ferries, visit www.ferries.com or contact Lake Champlain Transportation at 802-864-9804.

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