"We will run as long as conditions permit at the Essex-Charlotte crossing," said Heather Stewart of Lake Champlain Transportation.
But that isn't good enough for Whallonsburg, N.Y., resident Mary-Nell Bockman.
"We are asking for the year-round service that we have had over the years and that we really need and have come to rely on," Bockman said.
Bockman works at Gardener's Supply in Burlington. Her commute each day is two hours round trip. But last year, that trip became two hours one way when Lake Champlain Transportation decided to close the crossing for six weeks so it could move its ice breaking boats to Crown Point. LCT is providing temporary service there due to the closure of the Champlain Bridge.
"I think it is about providing the most reliable service to the most amount of people," Stewart said.
According to LCT, 150 cars use the Essex to Charlotte crossing each day during the winter months. More than 1,500 cars use the Crown Point to Chimney Point crossing daily.
"It is recognizing we have three crossings," Bockman said. "How do we maintain them year-round? And I think that when a private company makes it their business to make it be a public service, that's how it has to be viewed."
Drivers who rely on the Essex to Charlotte ferry are pleading with LCT to make sure it maintains year-round service at the crossing.
"We had to drive two and a half hours to get to school and by the time we got here I was just exhausted from driving," said Lindsay Gucker, who lives in Essex, N.Y., and attends school in Shelburne, Vt.
"We've had it before, we think we should get it back," Bockman said.
"We will not push the boat, we will not run it in ice, but we are going to make every effort to run as long as we can," Stewart said.
Now officials from LCT were invited to attend a public meeting on the issue at the Essex, N.Y., firehouse Wednesday night, but they did not show up. That meeting was standing-room only as elected officials from both sides of the lake listened to the concerns of commuters.
As for the state stepping in to help commuters, state transportation officials told WCAX News that they gave the contract to LCT, so it's up to LCT to decide where they place their ferries.
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