Friday, November 16, 2007

A New Ferry on the Tennessee River

It’s been nearly five years since a ferry connected Tennessee 147 and West and Middle Tennessee across Kentucky Lake — part of the Tennessee River — at the Big Sandy area. But today the Tennessee Department of Transportation resumed toll-ferry service there with a small ceremony.

The ferry will operate 365 days a year, from 5:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Residents of Benton, Henry, Stewart and Houston counties — those most expected to use it — will pay 75 cents for a round-trip. Others will pay $2. A person without a vehicle can cross for 50 cents. The state, which owns the ferry barge and contracts with a private marine service to operate it, will subsidize the service.

Although ferries were once a fixture on Tennessee rivers, this will be only the second passenger-vehicle ferry now operating in the state. The other is only about 30 miles away, over the Cumberland River near Cumberland City, according to TDOT spokeswoman Julie Oaks.

"This service will not only save passengers time and money, it will also offer greater economic opportunities for the entire region,” said TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely said Friday.

Stat Sen. Roy Herron and Reps. Butch Borchert and John Tidwell, who represent the area, and local officials from Benton and Houston Counties christened the ferry with bottles of sparkling cider Friday morning to officially launch the new service – the first at the location since January 2002.

A crossing takes about seven minutes each way. Passengers will have to wait no more than half an hour for service across the river, TDOT said.

The ferry will hold up to 22 passengers, plus crew members, and can carry six light trucks and two compact cars, or eight medium size cars, or one empty tractor trailer.

The captain and crew are certified and licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard, TDOT said.

Read the entire article at Commercial Appeal.

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