St. John the Baptist Parish officials said Friday they have secured a $1 million state grant to help pay operating costs of the Reserve-Edgard ferry, which has been shut down since July.
Parish spokeswoman Paige Falgoust said it is too early to say how soon the ferry will set sail once again.
Fares will likely go up, she said. Prices were last set at $1 a car per trip.
The St. John Parish Council agreed to parish President Natalie Robottom’s request last month to advertise for potential ferry operators to determine how much a private company would charge to run the ferry. That request for proposals is expected to be issued in coming weeks, officials said.
After weeks of discussion, the news about the grant was no surprise to local officials. The money, which comes from a federal Community Development Block Grant awarded through the state Office of Community Development, will cover five months’ worth of operating costs for the ferry, Robottom said.
Parish officials are considering the idea of using federal disaster recovery aid to make up the cost difference for the other seven months of the year, Robottom said. “It allows us to see what’s the real story here with the ferry, as far as maintenance and operation,” Falgoust said.
The ferry, which will remain the property of the state, was closed for more than three years before service resumed in 2011.
When it is not operating, commuters must take a 40-minute detour over the Veterans Memorial Bridge, connecting Gramercy in St. James Parish with the west bank of St. John. That creates a hardship for those without a car, officials say, particularly east bank residents summoned for jury duty at the parish courthouse in Edgard.
About 193,000 drivers and 5,900 pedestrians used the Reserve-Edgard ferry during the 2012 fiscal year, or fewer than 750 users a day, according to the state Department of Transportation and Development. The service costs about $2.2 million each year to operate.