Ti Ferry ends its winter run

SHOREHAM — The workday commute between New York state and Addison County got considerably more challenging on Sunday when the Ticonderoga Ferry closed for the winter.
The ferry — which links Shoreham with Ticonderoga, N.Y. — had to close after its 8 p.m. run on Jan. 3 because its owners were unable to extend insurance coverage deeper into the winter.
“This is a summer ferry. There are nine (marine insurance) underwriters in the United States, and we talked to seven of them,” said Michael Matot, who co-owns the ferry with his wife, Alison. “None of them wanted to insure it, so we’ve closed.”
Closure of the Ti Ferry means travelers will see their commutes extended considerably, at least until the new, temporary ferry service is opened near the site of the former Champlain Bridge that will link Crown Point, N.Y., with Chimney Point, Vt. The service is still under construction and is not slated to open until the end of the month at the earliest, according to Vermont and New York transportation officials. The new ferry will provide a much-needed, additional crossing of Lake Champlain until a new span is built at the former Champlain Bridge site, an undertaking expected to be completed by the summer of 2011 (see related story, Page 1A).
Until the new ferry service becomes operational, Ti Ferry users will have to seek out alternative transportation that will increase their commuting time. Those options include:
• The Essex, N.Y/Charlotte, Vt., Ferry, which will operate 24 hours per day. There will continue to be no charge for the service during this interim period. A schedule can be found by visiting www.ferries.com.
• Bus service to and from boarding points for the Essex-Charlotte Ferry. Beginning this past Monday, two Trailways buses are running from Ticonderoga to Essex, N.Y. They originate at the Ticonderoga Wal-Mart at 4:25 a.m. and 5:25 a.m., and make pickups at Sacred Heart Church in Crown Point, two points in Port Henry (Nu-Way Linen Service and Dock Street), and Westport Fairgrounds, arriving at the Essex Ferry at 5:50 a.m. and 6:50 a.m.
In Vermont, buses operated by Addison County Transit Resources (ACTR) are then taking riders to several locations within Addison County, including stops in Vergennes (Northlands Job Corps, Goodrich, and Main Street) and the greater Middlebury area. Return trips later in the afternoon are also available. Those disembarking from the Essex Ferry in the afternoon can link with buses leaving for Ticonderoga at 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., with the same stops in Westport, Port Henry and Crown Point.
• Morning bus service from New York to Vermont through Whitehall, N.Y. A bus originating at the Crown Point (Sacred Hearts Church) at 5:45 a.m. will make pickups at Ticonderoga Wal-Mart at 6 a.m., then travel on through Whitehall, N.Y., to Vermont stops at Middlebury College at 7:45 a.m.; Porter Medical Center at 7:50 a.m.; and Goodrich at 8:15 a.m. An additional bus to major employers in Vermont will be added if needed, according to New York transportation officials.
Afternoon service from Vermont to New York through Whitehall will consist of a bus that leaves Goodrich at 4 p.m.; Porter Medical Center at 4:30 p.m.; Middlebury College at 4:35 p.m.; and arrives in Ticonderoga at 6:20 p.m., and Crown Point’s Sacred Hearts Church at 6:35 p.m.
• “Dial-A-Ride Service” in Vermont from the Charlotte Ferry to Burlington, which requires 24-hour advanced notice. For more information or to schedule a ride call 1-802-878-1527.
• “Dial-A-Ride” and fixed-route service from the Charlotte Ferry to Vergennes. The service, provided by ACTR, requires 24-hour advanced notice, by calling (802) 388-1946 or by logging on to www.actr-vt.org.
For further information on the bus schedule, call Trailways at 1-800-858-8555.
James Moulton, director of ACTR, said the remainder of January could be a tough month for those would had been using the Ti Ferry. Many of those passengers had come across the lake, minus their cars, linking up with ACTR transportation in Shoreham.
“Dial-a-ride isn’t available anywhere for that area,” Moulton said of the Ti Ferry landing spot in Shoreham, from which ACTR was providing 38 “Dial-A-Ride” trips a day at peak service. Those commuters will now have to bus through Whitehall or take the ferry at Essex-Charlotte, from where ACTR will continue to operate a shuttle.
“We are prepared to help out wherever we are needed,” Moulton said.
Meanwhile, the Matots are getting a breather after a marathon ferry season. The couple, who recently acquired the ferry, agreed to extend service into the winter after New York and Vermont officials closed the Champlain Bridge on Oct. 16 due to safety concerns. The Matots hired additional staff and installed new ice inhibiting equipment to help the ferry meet the winter conditions and demand.
“We want to thank everyone for their cooperation,” Mike Matot said, noting how heartwarming it was to receive thanks — and tasty treats — from grateful passengers.
The Ti Ferry accommodated an average of around 725 passengers per day during recent weeks, with a high mark of 852 in one day. The Champlain Bridge had accommodated around 3,200 cars per day.
Matot said he feels bad that the closing of the Ti Ferry will inconvenience some folks, at least for the next few weeks.
“It is sad that their days are going to be longer,” he said.
Travelers are advised to check the various ferry Web sites as well as www.aot.state.vt.us and www.nysdot.gov/lakechamplainbridge for information on the new bridge and transportation schedules.

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