The commute between Jersey County, Illinois and St. Charles County, Missouri will get a little shorter next Friday - the scheduled reopening of the Grafton ferry after more than two years.
Silt washed downriver by the floods of 2008 had clogged the channel used by the ferry to cross near the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, leaving it too shallow for the ferry to operate. The previous private owner could not find money to dredge the channel, forcing the ferry to close in 2010.
The city of Grafton, which purchased the ferry, was able to secure a federal grant for the dredging, and the work should be completed by next Friday.
Mayor Tom Thompson says he expects ridership will bounce back quickly.
"We’ve got a number of people who have already indicated that they’re going to get back to commuting so they don’t have to spend all that time driving all the way to Alton and across the Clark bridge and then all the way over into north St. Louis or St. Charles County," Thompson said. The ferry's reopening can cut a commute by 30 minutes each way.
Thompson says the closure cost his city about city lost about $50,000 in sales tax revenue.
"Grafton is busy, don’t misunderstand me. We’re doing okay, but the issue is, we can do a lot better, and our businesses will do a lot better," he said.
The major dredging work should keep the channel clear for several years. Thompson says the city has the funds to operate the ferry for a while, but is also seeking federal money for that purpose.
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