JUNE 20, 2013 — The Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) has announced that the White Castle ferry will close permanently on Friday, June 21 due to a lack of licensed staff required to operate the vessel.
Due to the resignation of ferry staff, says DOTD, the White Castle ferry which was originally scheduled to close permanently on Friday, June 28, will cease service on Friday, June 21. Ferry employees were originally scheduled to be laid off after service ended.
DOTD says the ferry is being closed based on recommendations from the Streamlining Committee citing low ferry ridership and a reasonable alternative river crossing. These recommendations were approved by the Legislature. Closing the ferry will save the state approximately $1.3 million per year.
After June 21, motorists wishing to cross the river will need to take an alternate route. The nearest river crossing is north of the ferry landing via the Plaquemine ferry.
According to local media reports, the White Castle ferry carried 150 cars a day, though service appears to have been erratic and unpredictable at times.
The closure is one of a series of cut-backs and reschedulings that DOTD has been implementing.
In the past few years, DOTD has begun to implement the Streamlining Commission’s recommendations to close specific ferries that do not provide state or regional transportation connectivity and are primarily local transit services. The state closed the St. Francisville and Melville ferries which, says DOTD, saved Louisiana taxpayers approximately $2.7 million. In addition to the White Castle ferry, the Edgard/Reserve ferry is scheduled for closure in 2013. Closing these ferries will save taxpayers more than $3.5 million a year combined. DOTD also plans to close the Gretna ferry service (see below).
Separately, DOTD announced that, beginning July 1, 2013, it will utilize available funding and continue operations of the Chalmette ferry on its current schedule, as well as the Algiers/Canal ferry on an adjusted schedule. Operation of the Gretna ferry will cease as no funding was dedicated to the ferry during the legislative session. DOTD says the new schedule best preserves access to transportation options for residents of the New Orleans area.
The Algiers/Canal ferry will now run Monday through Friday from 7AM to 7PM, and an approximate 8-hour schedule on Saturday and Sunday as set in coordination with the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC). DOTD will utilize the $830,000 provided by Act 273, along with $700,000 annually for two years provided by Act 274, to continue ferry operations at the Algiers/Canal locations. This $1.5 million provides for the continued ferry service but hours of operations will be closely monitored and may be adjusted based on available funding and ridership levels. Adjusted hours of operations were coordinated with the RPC, local legislators and public officials, who relied on peak ridership data and reviewed RTA's bus schedule.
Additionally, DOTD will work with local officials including the tourism industry related to the hours of operation on the weekends. The hours of operation will be monitored for a two-month period to evaluate ridership and make adjustments as appropriate. DOTD will utilize the pedestrian ferry as much as possible at this crossing to improve efficiency.
RTA did not present a transition plan to the state, but has indicated it will present DOTD and RPC a potential transition plan in the Fall of 2013. DOTD will continue to work with the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission (RPC) to provide direction on the future of these local transit services.
DOTD will continue Chalmette ferry service as a state route, which fits into the state transportation model for ferry service. Drivers do not have nearby alternatives to cross the river in this area.
No funds were dedicated to the Gretna ferry service during the legislative session and it does not fit into the state's ferry service model because alternative routes are available. Gretna ferry service will end June 30, 2013.