Edit ModuleShow Tags

Take the Ferry at Fredericktown

Even near the City of Bridges, there are other ways to cross a river



You might expect a ferryboat in coastal New England, on Staten Island, in Puget Sound near Seattle, at Ocracoke on the Outer Banks or in some old Western when a train of covered wagons has to get across a big river. There's something old, slightly exotic and maybe even romantic about a ferry.

We're not used to them around here. But there is one. On the Mon, at Fredericktown, about 40 miles south of Pittsburgh, a small and efficient, bright-red, cable-guided boat named Frederick regularly hauls vehicles back and forth between LaBelle (locals say LAY-bell) and Fredericktown. Six days a week.

If you're in that neighborhood, the two- or three-minute ferry ride can save you from driving to either of the nearest bridges, which are about 15 miles away.

The day when I stopped with my video camera crew, Ron Columbia was the pilot operating the ferry. He directs vehicles into position on the flat little boat. He starts the engines. He collects tolls, makes small talk. He helps keep the trip pleasant. He's conductor/engineer/porter all in one.

"Yeah," said Ron. "I like it. I like the people who come across. I enjoy talking to them. I see a car across the river, sitting on the other side; I just start over there and go pick them up. Go load them up. Bring them back across; drop them off. About a hundred times in an eight-hour period."
Some local historians will tell you there's been a ferry here since 1790. Ferries were usually positioned at points on a river where people had multiple reasons to go back and forth, and often the site of a ferry crossing was where a bridge would eventually be built.

In 1967, when it was privately owned, this ferry stopped operating, apparently for a number of reasons, but in 1977, it was rehabilitated and revived. Since then it's profited greatly from new traffic going to and from the recently built maximum-security state prison on top of the hill on the Fayette County side. The ferry is now jointly owned by Fayette and Washington counties. The river is the county line.
Sadly now it looks as though a new $95 million bridge - part of toll road 43, the Mon-Fayette Expressway, or as we call it in our van, "The

Loneliest Highway" because of the small number of cars using it - could make this ferry superfluous and obsolete. That bridge, which would be 4 miles down river, is scheduled to be complete in 2012. It's just plans right now, but progress can be fast.

So this summer is the perfect time for a day trip to Fredericktown. Ride the ferry. Get a new view of the Monongahela Valley and a better understanding of what's on the other side of the river.
 


Rick Sebak produces, writes and narrates documentaries for WQED tv13, as well as national specials for PBS. His programs are available online or call 800/274-1307.

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Can't Get No Satisfaction - Renters in Pittsburgh?

Can't Get No Satisfaction - Renters in Pittsburgh?

A new study suggests Pittsburgh tenants are far from thrilled with where they live.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
Just in Time for the Holidays: Miracle Returns to Downtown

Just in Time for the Holidays: Miracle Returns to Downtown

The over-the-top holiday-themed bar opens at the Original Oyster House the night after Thanksgiving.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
Meet the Winner of Our 2017 Cutest Pet Contest

Meet the Winner of Our 2017 Cutest Pet Contest

The winner received the most votes among five dogs, four cats and a bunny.

Comments


Steal the Crown Jewels at Escape Room 51

Steal the Crown Jewels at Escape Room 51

The new escape game is instantly among the best in town.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Are Steelers Good Enough to Overcome Themselves?

Are Steelers Good Enough to Overcome Themselves?

The time has come for the offense to more often resemble what everyone thought it would become this season, as opposed to sinking on occasion to a Cleveland Browns-esque level of ineptitude.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

#Gottahaveit: Take It To the Hoop

Robert Hallett, Goldsmith, handcrafts the jewelry in his Oakmont shop.

Comments


The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Justice League Could've Been Worse (But Should've Been a Lot Better)

Justice League Could've Been Worse (But Should've Been a Lot Better)

Reviews of "Justice League," "Wonder" and "Lady Bird," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
One for the History Books: A Cathedral of Learning Proposal

One for the History Books: A Cathedral of Learning Proposal

This groom-to-be popped the question at new heights, potentially making him the first person to propose on top of the University of Pittsburgh’s signature structure.

Comments


Weekly inspiration for your home from the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine
Iconic Kaufmann’s Building Gets New Lease with Luxury Apartments, Hotel

Iconic Kaufmann’s Building Gets New Lease with Luxury Apartments, Hotel

The developer behind Kaufmann’s Grand on Fifth Downtown promise to meld the historic with the modern as it readies to open more than 300 residential units featuring voice-command system Amazon Alexa, plus a rooftop infinity pool, restaurant and bar.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

Tuition Increases at the University of Pittsburgh

School trustees voted this week to increase tuition for in-state and out-of-state students.

Comments

Edit Module

Edit Module