UNIONTOWN – Fayette County commissioners, as expected Thursday, voted to cease operation in September of an historic ferry it has been operating on the Monongahela River in cooperation with Washington County because the boat has been losing riders to a new bridge.
The three Fayette commissioners voted unanimously to cease operating ferryboat Frederick on Sept. 3, but will hold off another month before nixing a nearly $1 million federal grant earmarked for the vessel in the likelihood another entity decides to manage its runs, Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink said.
“I just think the cost of this, clearly we are losing money,” Commissioner Vincent Zapatosky said.
A ferry has been in operation between Fredericktown and LaBelle since the late 1700s, and the steel one in operation today, built in 1948, has been funded by the two counties with money they receive from state fuel taxes since 1977.
Fayette records show the ferry budget ended 2012 with a $28,000 deficit, which grew by $9,000 from the previous year. That loss increased to $450,000 since 2009 when the money used from the state liquid sfuel tax is taken into consideration to cover the cost of ferry operations, Zimmerlink said.
Zapatosky said he spoke on the telephone about the ferry’s fate with Washington County Commissioner Larry Maggi, who has said Washington County would wait to receive an official word on the ferry from Fayette before deciding how it would approach the decision.
No one from the public attended the Fayette County commissioners’ meeting Thursday to express an opinion on that county getting out of the ferry business.
The cable-driven vessel is the only ferry in operation on the Mon. It only serves about 90 cars a day, a drop of more than 100 since the nearby Bakewell Bridge opened in July 2012 along the Mon-Fayette Expressway.
Washington County residents have created a Facebook page, Friends of the Fredericktown Ferry, to draw attention to its plight, and some members of that group are planning to create a display on the history of Monongahela River ferries to place at a state Department of Transportation welcome center along Interstate 79 in Greene County.