Officials vote to shut down ferry crossing Mon River
Only cable-driven ferry in state hurt by declining patronage
May 25, 2013 4:00 AM
Larry Rutherford at the controls as the ferry approaches the landing at Federicktown. Operation of the ferry, across the Monongahela River, was co-funded by Washington and Fayette counties and is set to shut down later this year.
The ferry approaches the landing at Federicktown. Operation of the ferry, across the Monongahela River, was co-funded by Washington and Fayette counties and is set to shut down later this year.
Larry Rutherford of La Belle, Fayette County, walks Friday across the deck of the Fredericktown ferry he has operated for the past 30 years. Service is scheduled to end Sept. 3.
By Jon Schmitz Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The historic Fredericktown ferry in Washington County may be history.
Fayette County commissioners voted Thursday to discontinue funding the service across the Monongahela River from Fredericktown to La Belle. Washington County commissioners, who pay half of the cost of subsidizing the ferry, have not yet acted but may do so next month.
As it stands now, the service is scheduled to end Sept. 3.
The ferry, the last of three that operated across the Mon between the two counties and the only cable-driven ferry in Pennsylvania, has been beset with rising costs and declining patronage, said Lisa Cessna, planning director for Washington County.
The two counties paid $98,000 each last year to subsidize the ferry, up from $45,000 the prior year and $29,000 in 2010, she said.
"That's the issue. The expenses have been going up and the ridership has been going down," Ms. Cessna said.
Opening of the final piece of the Uniontown-to-Brownsville section on the Mon-Fayette Expressway, including a new bridge over the Mon, has made the ferry, which can carry up to six cars on a four-minute crossing of the river, a less attractive option.
The toll is $2 for a passenger car and 50 cents for pedestrians. Any expenses not covered by passenger revenue are made up by the counties from state liquid fuels tax allocations. If Washington County discontinues its funding, the money would be used for bridge projects, "of which we have several," Ms. Cessna said.
According to a transportation study done several years ago for the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, ferry service between the two communities began before 1900 as a private operation.
The service remained in private hands until it was closed in 1969 because of declining ridership. The counties began to explore reopening it and did a feasibility study that led to their funding partnership in 1979.
The current ferry was built in 1948. Steel cables anchored on both sides of the rivers pull the vessel back and forth and prevent it from drifting downstream.
In recent years, it has been used mostly by workers at the nearby State Correctional Institution Fayette to cut several miles off their commutes.