Maiden voyage of Savanna-Sabula ferry service sets off

Most residents have been taking an hour long detour for the last three monthsq

Savanna, Illinois -  


One of the most significant divides between Savanna, Illinois and Sabula, Iowa has just become its newest lifeline.

Starting at noon Tuesday, June 13, a ferry service is taking advantage of the Mississippi River to ship passengers and cars between the towns.

It's also free.

It has room for 15 cars and up to 80 people.

In February, the overflow bridge north of Sabula closed following safety concerns and work began to replace it.

The issue has become delays pushing back the project, now until around Labor Day.

In the more than three months since that bridge has closed, commuters have faced an almost hour-long detour to get to each other’s towns, and that’s just one way of the drive.

With a ferry now in service, it’s about 15 minutes one way, and for those hopping on, they said it beats the alternative.

Savanna resident Ronda Weiss said, “This is going to cut that time quite a bit.”

For some, the existence of the ferry means a closer connection to family.

Freeport, Illinois resident Fran Carlino said, “See my daughter, son-in-law and very enjoyable deal. I didn’t know I was going on the be on the first run.”

Other, it’s business.

Savanna resident Ken Brown said, “Going over today to get my haircut. My barbers there [in Sabula].”

And still for some, coming on board is for the joy and memories.

Weiss said, “For us today, this is just fun. Just to be on the first ride.”

Savanna resident Ronda Weiss said it’s an excellent way to spend the afternoon with her granddaughter, but knows the value of this service will be measured in more than the experience and view.

“Does mean a lot because there’s a lot of people that travel back and forth between the two towns for work and this will just make it that much easier,” Weiss said.

These last few months have been hard on most.

Savanna Mayor Chris Lain said, “You don’t even realize how much it impacts you until it happens. We’ve had an economic impact of course. Our businesses on both sides of the river have been suffering.”

But Savanna’s Mayor Chris Lain said he’s relieved the Iowa Department of Transportation has stepped in.

With the overflow bridge delay growing, the transportation department helped to create both the ferry along with a trial-run bus service this week to help reduce the time people are spending behind the wheel.

Lain said, “From idea to implementation has been so quick.”

Although along with the convenience, there’s a little nostalgia.

Brown said, “Road on the ferry, they had one back in the early 80’s.”

The ferry will operate daily from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

While it’s completely free to come on board, Iowa DOT said they’re paying $1.2 million to make it available.

June 16-17, there will be a weekend of activities including a dedication ceremony of the big new Savanna-Sabula bridge that was come completed last fall.

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