Cave-In-Rock ferry faces closure due to budget problems - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Cave-In-Rock ferry faces closure due to budget problems

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CAVE IN ROCK, Ill. -- Without an influx of cash, officials say the Cave-In-Rock ferry could be forced to close July 1, causing a disruption to people on both sides of the Ohio River.

Jack Easley of Benton, Ky. uses it a couple times a week to go to the Shawnee National Forest and to visit friends in Illinois.

He said plenty of people rely on it.

"For a lot of my friends and people in the community, it's getting into their pocketbook: driving around, more gas, leaving early for work," Easley said. "We really do depend on it."

"The ferry has been sort of a part of the fabric of the community for southern Illinois and western Kentucky by providing an economic engine," Keith Todd with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet said.

Todd said a new rule from the Coast Guard to include another crew member puts more burden on the ferry and the operator can't afford it.

"This not only applies to the Cave-in-Rock ferry, but also applies to the Dorena-Hickman ferry," Todd said.

But Todd said the Dorena-Hickman ferry can also charge a toll— something the Cave-in-Rock ferry can't due to Illinois regulations.  

Both Kentucky and Illinois contribute $400,000 to the ferry each year.

"Part of the issue here is by the time our ferry operator became aware of some of the extra cost that he was going to be facing, we were already in the budgeting process and in fact, our budget had already passed through the legislature," Todd said.

The Crittenton County Press reports Illinois has offered to contribute more but it's unclear if Kentucky will help.  

Officials held a teleconference call Friday afternoon to work on a solution and they'll meet with Coast Guard officials Monday to see if there's anything the agency can do.

And if officials can't find a solution, people who rely on the ferry will have to take a much longer commute.

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