SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY (CBS13) — Wednesday marked a historic day in the Delta. After more than 80 years of carrying food and heavy farming equipment by ferry, Woodward Island finally has a bridge.
Ferry driver Deborah Reid took one of her last trips across the Middle River in San Joaquin County on Wednesday.
“It’s probably time for me,” Reid said. “I’m going to miss the people because I’m used to talking to people all day long.”
Every day for the last 40 years, Reid has pulled farmers, tractors, and trailers across the water by a cable extending from a levee on Bacon Island Road to Woodward Island. The round-trip took four minutes.
The island is home to more than 2,000 acres of agriculture. Farmer Paul Sanguinetti grows asparagus, corn, wheat, and milo. He says those crops don’t require large trucks to haul away the harvest.
“The ferry has only so much capacity and there were trucks that went off the ferry into the river, oh yeah, they’ve had several accidents,” Sanguinetti said.
He said his father-in-law farmed on the island his whole life and was the driving force behind the construction of a bridge 50 years ago.
“He was a ramrod, let me tell you,” Sanguinetti said. “As long as I’ve been married to my wife, he’s been trying to get a bridge.”
It was not until 2012 when Caltrans found parts of the ferry were structurally deficient that talks of building a bridge resumed.
County Supervisor Tom Patti said the bridge is long overdue.
“They’ve been farming there for almost 100 years and everything was going by a ferry system which would at times break down. People even died in the past,” Patti said.
The new 675-foot bridge will now increase access to the island and allow farmers to grow new crops with higher yields. Patti said it makes farming on the island “100% better.”
For Deborah Reid, the end of the ferry system is bittersweet because she considers the farmers members of her family.
“It’s peaceful. I like it here,” Reid said. “I see people all day long.”
The design of the bridge allows for the center section to be removed by crane and let large ships pass through.