May 24, 2018
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Maine islanders lose bid to halt ferry rate increase

Gabor Degre | BDN
Gabor Degre | BDN
A ferry in Penobscot Bay carries vehicles and passengers from Islesboro to Lincolnville in this file photo. A state island ferry increase will cause some ticket prices for Isleboro residents to spike by more than 100 percent.
By Lauren Abbate, BDN Staff
Updated:

The Maine Department of Transportation has denied a request from the town of Islesboro to delay implementing a state island ferry increase that will cause some ticket prices for Isleboro residents to spike by more than 100 percent.

State transportation officials notified the town of the decision on Thursday.

Residents of the island community have been infuriated with the new rate structure, unveiled in April, which sets a standard ticket price across the entire Maine State Ferry Service system ― $11 for a round-trip adult ticket, $5.50 for a child, and $30 for a person with a vehicle.

The town’s attorney and elected officials asked the Department of Transportation to delay the fee changes because of the hardships higher fees would create for Isleboro residents who commute to the mainland for work or business.

The new rate structure is due to take effect systemwide Monday.

With the new rate structure, an adult Islesboro resident who today pays $5.50 for a ferry ticket will now pay nearly double — $11. If they have a car, that cost increases from $13.75 to $30.

A request for a stay was filed with the DOT by the the town’s attorney, Mary Costigan, on May 11 pending a formal appeal of the rate change. The appeal is slated to be filed Friday or Monday.

“Obviously, we’re pretty disappointed with [the decision], but we’re just going to push forward with the appeal,” Islesboro selectman Gabe Pendleton said.

In a letter addressed to Costigan, Maine DOT’s Chief Counsel Jim Billings said the request for a stay was denied because “there has not been a showing of irreparable harm where the rates for services are the issues.”

Billings said he disagreed with Costigan on the chances of a successful appeal, though if Islesboro was successful with an appeal, anyone who has overpaid for a ticket could be refunded.

“It seems highly unlikely that anyone on Islesboro is going to undergo irreparable injury for paying a few dollars more per ferry ticket while this case is pending for a matter of months,” the letter reads.

Money is not what the community is concerned about, Pendleton said, rather they’re worried about people moving off island. Pendleton said he’s spoken with multiple residents who are considering moving because of the rate increase.

The DOT also claimed that granting a rate stay for Islesboro would impede on the public interest of getting the new rate structure implemented. If a stay was granted it would impact every other type of rate, the other islands serviced by the state and other users of the ferry service.

The Maine State Ferry Service, part of the Maine Department of Transportation, runs ferries between the mainland and the islands of North Haven, Vinalhaven, Islesboro, Matinicus, Frenchboro and Swan’s Island. The service has not increased rates since 2009.

Staff writer Nick McCrea contributed to this report.

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