Free cross-river transportation offered

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By Dave Taylor

The Trimble Banner
The City of Madison and Rockin’ Thunder Jet Boat Rides, LLC have agreed to provide passenger ferry service across the Ohio River during the remaining two weeks of the Milton-Madison Bridge closure. The service began Monday, Mar. 31.
Individuals will be able to take a boat ride from the City of Madison boat ramp to Milton and vice versa every Monday through Friday rain or shine from 7:00 am to 6:00 pm. Trips will be made across the river throughout the day as needed, according to a release from Madison Mayor Damon Welch. There will be no cost to people wanting to make the trip across, but rides will be given on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Mayor Damon Welch said, “I am pleased that we were able to get an agreement to make sure residents can make it between the two cities. When we were told it might be a short delay, a number of generous residents stepped up to help as they always do in times of need. However, with an extended delay, we knew something had to be done to help residents whose time and money is being pinched through this closing. We are grateful that Rockin’ Thunder owners/captains Paul Nicholson and Janet Harding and the City of Milton Mayor Denny Jackson were so interested in making this happen. Despite this recent delay, we are still very blessed to only have a closure of a month rather than 12 to 18 months or more.”
The Rockin’ Thunder boats will be loaded at the Madison Boat Ramp using a dock provided by Eagle Hollow Marina. On the Milton side, boats will unload on to the emergency ferry and people can walk off to the Milton Boat Ramp. For residents on the Milton side that need to get back to Madison, please call Rockin’ Thunder Jet Boats at 812-701-1155 to announce your arrival on the Milton shoreline for pickup.
Motorists are not to park on the Milton Boat Ramp, as it needs to be accessible for emergency vehicles. Limited parking is available in Milton on High Street or at the Milton City Park.
The first trip of the day will depart Madison promptly at 7:00 am from the public boat ramp, according to information provided by captains Hornback and Harding. Commuters are encouraged to arrive a few minutes early to be given a life jacket and safety instructions. On the Madison side a dock will be used for loading and unloading. On the Milton side commuters will be loading and unloading on the rear ramp of the emergency vehicle ferry.
“Please wear non skid shoes for your safety,” Hornback and Harding said in a statement. “While the ride across is not long it is important that you dress warmly and be prepared to ride rain or shine. We expect the morning commute to be quite busy. We ask for your patience during the first few days.”
The operation will begin with a boat that hauls six passengers plus crew. If more than six people show up at a time some will have to wait a few minutes for the boat to return. The two hope to get a 2nd boat in service as quickly as possible.
Commuters are to wait on the shore until the yellow Rockin’ Thunder boat arrives at the rear ramp of the emergency vehicle ferry. The last trip of the day from Madison will be at 6:00 pm followed by the last trip from Milton.
“We realize that this schedule will not work for everyone but we hope it helps make this very bad situation better for most commuters,” Hornback and Harding said.
Once on either riverbank, ferry riders are encouraged to carpool with family members, co-workers, or friends to reach their intended destination. Detours for vehicular traffic across the Ohio River are available at Markland Locks and Dam Bridge 26 miles upstream, or the I-65 Kennedy Bridge in Louisville, 46 miles downstream.
The cost for this service is currently being absorbed by the City of Madison. Rockin’ Thunder boats are driven by U.S. Coast Guard certified master captains. Riders will be asked to sign a waiver form before making the trip, although it is important to note that the rides will not be the typical “wild” rides that Rockin’ Thunder provides during tourist season.