CRITTENDEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - An offer has been made by the KYTC that will allow the Cave-In-Rock Ferry to stay open another three months.
According to Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, they and the Illinois Department of Transportation have offered additional funds to the Ohio River Authority to maintain the ferry operations for the next three months.
"The ferry operator's self-imposed July 1 deadline does not allow adequate time for necessary funding justifications to be made to the Ohio River Authority and supporting transportation agencies," Todd said in a press release.
He said three months is a more reasonable timeframe to review the expenses needed to maintain the ferry operations of LRL, Inc., while limiting the immediate impact to travelers during the busy summer season.
Ferry operators met with state and local officials on Monday, June 25 to discuss the future of the Cave-In-Rock Ferry.
According to Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, they had a conference call on Friday and a meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss how to help the ferry operator.
He said the Coast Guard recently started requiring an extra crew member on board and that means an extra expense. He said there will also be some needed boat upgrades in the next couple of years.
Todd said without the additional funding, the Cave-In-Rock Ferry can close July 1.
Sitting in his truck ready to board the ferry, Steve Wheeler, said, "When this shuts down, it's going to hurt us here, it's going to hurt Kentucky also. Big time."
If Cave in Rock Ferry was to go away, Wheeler said it could cost him gas and time. He explains,
"We have to drive all the way around to Shawneetown to Sturgis all the way around..it's a two-hour trip just about," he explained.
Another driver, Vicky Holley, uses the ferry to go to her lake house on Kentucky Lake.
"I'm sad about it because we do enjoy the ferry a lot," she said.
More than 500 commuters use the Cave-In-Rock Ferry multiple times a week for work, for grocery shopping, and even for tourism. Many cyclists traveling cross-country use the ferry as well, like Craig Burnell.
"We are so close to the finish…this is kind of the delivery across the river to the home stretch...it's big milestone in the race to get to this point, so everyone looks forward to it," he said.
A local to Cave In Rock, Scott Welch said, "[The Ferry] stays busy nonstop, all day long, seven days a week. The boats always moving."
Wheeler said they would be willing to pay to keep the ferry going.
"Charge $5 a vehicle..it's worth it for the people," Wheeler said.
Representative Natalie Phelps Finnie said the state of Kentucky and the state of Illinois have a 50/50 share of the $804,000 funding for the Cave-In-Rock Ferry.
She said Illinois allocated its $402,000 plus an additional $184,000 annually for the ferry.
According to Phelps Finnie, the state of Illinois has done its part with the budget. She challenges the state of Kentucky administration and the transportation cabinet to do the right thing and fund ferry.
According to Todd, the Dorena-Hickman Ferry will also be required to have an extra crew member and will be included in the meetings with the Coast Guard.
The Cave-In-Rock Ferry connects KY 91 with Illinois Route 1 across the Ohio River between Crittenden County, Kentucky and Hardin County, Illinois. It operates between 6 a.m. and around 10 p.m., seven days a week and carries about 500 vehicles across the river each day.
Todd said it is operated by an independent contractor with joint funding from KYTC and the Illinois Department of Transportation through a ferry authority in Crittenden County.
He said there are about 30 residents in Crittenden County that work in Illinois and use the ferry regularly.
This could cost people like Steve Wheeler and his wife gas and time.
"When this shuts down, it's going to hurt us here, it's going to hurt Kentucky also, big time," said Wheeler. "We have to drive all the way around to Shawneetown to Sturgis all the way around. It's a two hour trip just about."
Wheeler, along with other commuters use the ferry multiple times a week.