ISLESBORO, Maine — Work on a Maine State Ferry Service project that will require shutting down vehicle access to the island for a month this fall will enter its initial stage this week.
The $6 million project will involve the replacement of the transfer bridges at ferry terminals in Lincolnville Beach and Islesboro. In order to accomplish that, ferry service will be shut down for about four weeks beginning Sept. 28. The shutdown will be a major inconvenience for island residents, but one they are resigned to deal with.
“Obviously we’re elated that the state is going to fix the ramps. They’ve been in poor shape for a while and there was concern that we would be faced with weight limits, which would upset the island,” town manager Marnie Diffen said last week. “This is a well planned methodical affair and the island is prepared for it.”
Paul Pottle, manager of the Department of Transportation’s multi-modal program, said the project has been on the drawing board for years. He said the DOT and island officials conducted a series of briefings over the past year and a half detailing the scope of the project and the need to shut down ferry service to get it done.
He said that DOT looked at keeping the existing facilities open and building new bridges and ferry terminals on other sites on the mainland and island but that the money for such a project was not available. He estimated it would have cost upwards of $12 million to build new terminals. The existing transfer bridges are more than 50 years old.
“They’ve gone beyond their useful life,” Pottle said. “To do nothing, the bridges will fail and we will be forced into an emergency situation.”
Cianbro Corp. was awarded the contract to replace the transfer bridges and is already in the process of fabricating two 80 foot long by 14 foot wide bridges at its Pittsfield site. Once completed, the bridges will be placed on barges and floated to Islesboro and Lincolnville Beach. The bridges will be lifted into place with a 200 ton crane. Both will be installed during the same four-week period.
The company will start preparing both sites this week, Pottle said. Work will be done on the existing in-water structures that were installed in 1989 to accommodate the larger Margaret Chase Smith ferry when it replaced the Governor Muskie. He said crews will be at both terminals throughout the spring and summer preparing each site for the new bridges.
As for getting back and forth to the island, the state is seeking bids from private carriers that could handle passengers during the four weeks the ferry is out of service. He said the DOT hopes to contract with a covered, shallow draft vessel capable of carrying 50-100 passengers.
With the ferry shut down beginning Sept. 28, island residents who want to leave a car on the mainland will have access to the terminal parking lot in Lincolnville Beach and additional locations, Pottle said.
Vehicle traffic to the island will be suspended during that period except for some limited trips on a private ferry. Pottle said food and fuel deliveries would be allowed, as well as the removal of solid waste. He said a special unloading area will be established for the private ferry.