Save the Ferry

Like most of the rest of the country, Connecticut is in dire financial straits. Despite what Governor Ex-Con says, the current occupant did not create the problem. He’s trying to solve a dilemma that has been decades in the making. I’d say back to about the ex-con’s administration.

The cuts that are going into effect mean layoffs of thousands of state workers, which will result in the closure of prisons, courts, motor vehicle offices and highway rest stops. Among all the big cuts, there is a tiny one that is breaking my heart. The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry is a small, hidden gem that could easily become revenue producing if someone put a little thought into it.

This little boat that can crosses the Connecticut River from April 1 to November 30 (with time off when the river is in flood). It is a perpetual stop on Liz’s tour of the lower River Valley. We always approach from the Chester side, off Route 154, which us ol’ timers still call Old Route 9. The ferry is either at the dock or hoves into view within a minute or two. The web site says it can accommodate eight to nine cars, but I’ve seen the pilot grow nervous after six. It takes no time to load and as we float out into the river, Gillette Castle appears high on the cliff on the eastern shore. Even the most jaded observers never fail to gasp and point and take massive numbers of photos of William Gillette’s fantasy land. Of course that’s the next stop on Liz’s tour as the ferry deposits its passengers within a country mile of the place.

Now my romantic visions of the ferry are all well and good, but there are several practical reasons to keep it open, especially now. When it is running, it relieves traffic from the East Haddam Bridge. This little cute little drawbridge stays active in boating season — up and down, up and down. I worked with a woman who lived just up the road from the ferry on the Hadlyme side and had to take the bridge in the winter. She swore that it opened when the barges left Hartford and that she could cut an hour off her travel time if she took the ferry.

The ferry is crucial right now when the Arrigoni Bridge between Portland and Middletown is being repaired with the attendant lane restrictions. The options for getting across the Long Tidal Water are north to the Putnam Bridge or south to East Haddam. With more traffic on the bridges the ferry can relieve the pressure. Same goes for the ferry between Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, although that one isn’t as dramatic as its sister at Chester.

And now for the money part. Closing the  ferry will produce a savings of exactly $284,308. The fares at this point are $3.00 for regular cars, $2.00 for commuters, $1.00 for pedestrians or cyclists. The last time I took my bike across, it cost $0.25 so I see they’ve raised the prices a bit, but they really could charge tourists more than $3, or $1 while leaving the commuter rates alone.

As the people who showed up to protest noted, the little ferry is a huge piece of Connecticut history. Closing it would be losing a piece of our heritage. Please, please don’t take that away.


2 Responses to “Save the Ferry”

  1. Dana Says:

    I’m not sure where you got your savings number of $284,308 but a clip on CBS news says that the revenue generated is $147,404 and the expenses are $584,706. I see an overall expense of $437,404. That’s almost a half a million dollar expense.

    For as much as I love these boats this looks like pork barrel spending me to. My tax monies are being used for those four towns convenience. Why is people only scream about pork barrel spending at the federal level? How about if those four towns take over the ferry services and then justify the expense to their voters?

    Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti ferry but I’m just saying that this is one of many, many, many programs that is a financial loser for the state and it’s taxpayers.

    • lizr128 Says:

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. The source the $284,000 was the state, as published in Hartford Courant. The article I relied on is no longer in the archives, but the information remains. See Chris Keating’s article July 26 article. “State Unions Vote in the Middle of Vacation Season; Malloy Says Come Back from Cape.” I believe the $500,000 figure related to both ferries.

      Town officials in Lyme have already filed court papers to seek an injunction to block the closure of the historic Hadlyme to Chester ferry, as well as the Rocky Hill to Glastonbury ferry. The heavily subsidized, seasonal ferries cost $3 per vehicle and $1 for bicyclists and pedestrians for a scenic ride across the river. But the combined losses are less than $500,000 a year in a $20 billion annual state budget. The loss for the Hadlyme ferry in the just-completed fiscal year was about $284,000, while the Rocky Hill ferry lost $204,000, according to the state transportation department.

      I heartily agree that pork barrel spending needs to be curtailed, but why can’t supervisors give up their state cars and free gas? What about raising prices at the heavily subsidized cafeteria in the Legislative Office Building? When I worked at the Courant, the same food cost twice as much in the building. If I had the time, I always took a walk across the street. And yes, I would be willing to pay the $12/8/4 reflecting the actual cost of the ferry.,0,6863850.story
      Commuters should receive a lower monthly rate.
      Just glad to know people are actually thinking about this issue. Thanks.

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