Historic Ferryboat Might be Making Last Trip Between Fayette and Washington

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
23 May 2013
By Liz Zemba

A 200-year-old ferryboat that crisscrosses the Monongahela River may soon make its last trip between Fayette and Washington counties.

Fayette County commissioners on Thursday voted unanimously to cease operating the Fredericktown Ferry on Sept. 3, and Washington County has no interest in running it without Fayette's help, according to one of its commissioners.

The ferry shuttles pedestrians and vehicles. The two-minute trip costs 50 cents for pedestrians and $2 per car, with higher rates for trucks and larger vehicles.

Fayette and Washington counties have shared costs to run the ferry, with Fayette taking on the added expense of employing riverboat pilots and managing operations.

Fayette Commissioner Vincent Zapotosky proposed withdrawing Fayette's support of the ferry because ridership numbers have dropped by more than half since a bridge over the Monongahela River opened last year.

The ferry went from generating $91,063 in fares in 2009 to $38,219 in 2012, according to Controller Sean Lally. It posted a $44,678 loss in 2012, and the two counties contributed a combined $155,112 toward its $238,009 operating expenses in 2012.

“With the cost of operating this, clearly, we're losing money,” Zapotosky said. “We can't keep operating it with these losses.”

Zapotosky and Commissioner Angela Zimmerlink said they contacted Washington County commissioners for their input but got no response before the meeting.

Washington County Commissioner Chairman Larry Maggi said in an email on Thursday that Washington County has no intention of operating the ferry on its own.

“Since Fayette County is the lead county on operating the ferry, we were waiting until they made their decision,” Maggi wrote. “As of now, we do not have any plans on operating the ferry without Fayette County's help.”

In the event Washington County wants to take over the boat's operations, commissioners left in place an earlier resolution that allowed for the use of a $970,000 federal grant to renovate the ferry.

Zapotosky said Fayette would not be interested in helping with a 20 percent match to the grant should it be used for renovations that have been estimated between $400,000 and $1 million.

The ferry runs from 6:15 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. weekdays and 6:15 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. on Saturdays.

Liz Zemba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.