CAVE-IN-ROCK, IL (WSIL) -- After weeks of negotiations, leaders in Illinois and Kentucky have struck an 11th hour deal with the owner of the Cave-In-Rock Ferry to keep it operating.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the ferry announced it would discontinue operations at 10:00 p.m., that's when the ferry's two-year contract would have expired.
Operator Lonnie Lewis said he would not continue to operate the ferry without a new two-year contract with Kentucky to assure long-term funding.
Shortly after 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet announced a tentative deal had been reached, keeping the ferry running on its normal schedule.
Closure of the ferry would mean drivers would have to use the Shawneetown Bridge adding more than an hour to their commute.
"We take jobs over in Kentucky, we live in Illinois," said Alex Humm. "We rely on this ferry to get us back, to and from work, and if this ferry closes, some of us are going to take a 30-mile drive, some 38, but that 38-mile drive is going to turn into a nearly 90-mile drive, one-way. Then we have to question it and ask ourselves, is it worth it? Is it worth it to continue driving around if this ferry ceases operation?"
Illinois State Senator Dale Fowler says all sides have agreed to the terms of the new agreement and he couldn't be happier for the community.
"There are so many variables," said Fowler. "So many things that come under the equation of the need and the demand for this ferry. So this was very, very stressful, complicated, but we were able to get it done in the last few hours remaining of this last two-year contract, so I couldn't be more excited."
The Cave-In-Rock Ferry transports nearly 500 vehicles a day across the Ohio River.
It will resume operations Wednesday morning at 6:00.