Ferry service to reconnect Iowa, Illinois amid bridge closure
SABULA, Iowa (AP) — Iowa transportation officials plan to offer a ferry service across the Mississippi River while crews work to replace a small bridge that has forced an extended detour for travelers between the state and Illinois.
Ferry services between Sabula, Iowa, and Savanna, Illinois, will run for about 12 hours a day beginning Tuesday, said Bob Younie, the maintenance director for the Iowa Department of Transportation.
The free ferry will be able to transport 15 passenger cars and about 80 people in a standing position, Younie said. The ferry won’t allow commercial vehicles.
John Baalman, the ferry’s captain, said he anticipates the boat will arrive Sunday. It’s unclear how many trips the ferry will make each day.
“We still need to get out there and test it ourselves,” Baalman said. “It’s hard at this point to say how long each trip will last.”
A bus service will also be provided twice daily during peak hours beginning next week, Younie said. The Transportation Department may install a pontoon-type bridge, but officials need to examine its feasibility and timeliness, he said.
“We’re trying to restore mobility to the Savanna and Sabula area,” Younie said.
An 85-year-old bridge north of Sabula was declared unsafe after pavement settling was discovered and closed in February, forcing residents to take a 36-mile detour to cross the river. The Transportation Department has accelerated an already planned $8.5 million project to replace the bridge, which officials expect to be completed in September.
The ferry will be operational for at least two months, but is contracted to remain until the bridge is open, said Sam Shea, a planner the Iowa Department of Transportation. The ferry could cost the Transportation Department about $1.2 million if it stays for four months.