Casco Bay Lines to receive $5.5M from feds for new ferry

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PORTLAND — The U.S Department of Transportation has awarded $6.8 million to the state Department of Transportation for two ferry projects, including $5.5 million for construction of a new ferry for Casco Bay Lines.

The funding was announced in separate press releases by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, and U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both R-Maine.

The new Casco Bay Lines vessel would replace the Island Romance, Pingree said, which was built in 1973. The new ferry will be able to carry close to 400 passengers – 100 more than the Island Romance – and will be equipped with electronically controlled diesel engines that meet the latest federal standards for efficiency and emissions control.

“We’re very excited to get this funding and appreciate all the work that has gone into securing this funding,” Nick Mavodones, Casco Bay Lines acting general manager, said in a prepared statement. “We have a boat that is over 35 years old and requires a lot of maintenance. Replacing it with a new boat is going to be a benefit to the islanders that ride this vessel. It will be more reliable, more comfortable and best of all it won’t have to be paid for by fare increases.”

Lee Smith, chief operating officer at Washburn & Doughty in East Boothbay, said his company plans to bid on the contract for construction of the new vessel. Pingree said officials at Casco Bay Lines hope to award the contract and start construction quickly.

Snowe and Collins said the remaining $1.3 million in stimulus funds will be used to replace aging and unsafe dock fender systems at the Maine State Ferry Service terminals for service between the town of Lincolnville and Isleboro Island in Penobscot Bay.

“Our ferry services are critical components of Maine’s transportation system,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Funding from the Department of Transportation will improve service and safety in Penobscot and Casco Bays.”