Fuel costs prompt move to increase Maine ferry fares


ROCKLAND (AP) – Increases in the cost of fuel are prompting the state ferry service to propose 10 percent rate increases for its six ferry runs in July.

“We’re being driven almost entirely by fuel prices,” said Jim MacLeod, manager of the Maine State Ferry Service.

Fuel costs for the state ferries to Swans Island, Islesboro, Frenchboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven and Matinicus, which totaled $290,000 in 1997, are expected to rise to $1 million this year, MacLeod said. The state budget includes $650,000 per year for fuel, but the figure will have to be adjusted given the rise in the price of No. 2 fuel oil to $2.50 a gallon, he said.

MacLeod said officials have considered other cost-saving measures, but cutting trips does not appear to be a solution. “We studied some fairly drastic reductions in service,” said MacLeod.

Ferry employees are guaranteed 40 hours of work a week by their union contract, so fewer trips would not result in substantial savings, he said. In some cases, cutting trips would result in lost revenue.

The state Transportation Department will cover the ferry service’s shortfall in the months ahead, and the new fares would kick in July 1.

Under the proposal, round trips for a vehicle and driver on the Swan’s Island, Vinalhaven, North Haven and Frenchboro runs would increase from $34.50 to $38 if bought on the mainland. If bought on the islands, they would increase from $18.50 to $20.25.

The car and driver round-trip fare to Islesboro, the shortest run, would rise from $17.50 to $19.25, and to Matinicus, the longest, from $63.50 to $70.

The proposed rate increases, which would be the first since 2004, were endorsed by the service’s citizen advisory board. A public hearing is scheduled for May 15 at the ferry terminal in Rockland.

Information from: Bangor Daily News, http://www.bangornews.com

AP-ES-04-29-06 1120EDT