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River Life’s a Drag With No Bridge, No Ferry

February 16, 1985

BEARDSTOWN, Ill. (AP) _ Living along a big, lazy river used to be a romantic lifestyle for folks in this Illinois River town - until the bridge went out and the ferry became ice- bound.

″It’s been more than just a pain in the neck,″ said Mayor Robert Summey, who calls the predicament a ″whole danged mess.″

Some residents say the situation has doubled their commuting time, and shopkeepers are complaining about the loss of cross-river business.

Even the ferry operator, Charles Inman, is fed up. Since Jan. 13, his vessel has been welded by ice to the banks of the half-mile-wide river.

″This is my livelihood. I’m not making any money,″ Inman said.

The Beardstown Bridge, a rusting, 30-year-old steel hulk whose open-grating design invited corrosion from highway salt, was taken out of service Nov. 1 for a $6 million, 11-month repair job.

To quell protests by shop owners here and in Beardstown’s sister-city of Rushville - 12 miles west across the river - the state agreed to a $425,000 subsidy for ferry service while repairs were underway.

But then the waterway froze, except for a narrow channel.

″I’m spending a fortune on gas,″ complained Terry Roegge, whose previously one-hour drive to work 40 miles away has doubled.

″Some businesses are going to fold because of the bridge closing - ones that are marginal and depend on highway traffic,″ says Marcia Howren, director of the Chamber of Commerce in this western Illinois town of about 6,000.

Inman, who expected winter to put him out of business for at least six weeks, says it would take a week of 40-degree days to free his ferry.

Ms. Howren said the chamber is trying to make up for the loss of business from across the river by urging Beardstown residents to do all their shopping locally instead of at larger stores in neighboring communities.

But Inman predicted the fuss and worry will be shortlived.

″You know, as soon as the bridge is reopened next August or September or whenever, people will forget all about me, the ferry, and all of this,″ he said.

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