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Maine's ferry service says it needs to boost fare revenues to keep up with rising costs

The new ferry, Captain E. Frank Thompson, makes its maiden voyage to Vinalhaven Island as it leaves Rockland, Maine, on Friday, April 20, 2012. The 154 ft. vessel that weighs 494 tons is the newest ferry for the Maine State Ferry Service, making it the first vessel to be added to the fleet in 19 years.
Pat Wellenbach
/
AP
The new ferry, Captain E. Frank Thompson, makes its maiden voyage to Vinalhaven Island as it leaves Rockland, Maine, on Friday, April 20, 2012. The 154 ft. vessel that weighs 494 tons is the newest ferry for the Maine State Ferry Service, making it the first vessel to be added to the fleet in 19 years.

Passengers on ferries to Maine's islands could soon have to pay more, under plans being discussed between the state and island residents.

Paul Merrill, a spokesperson for the Maine Department of Transportation, said that the Maine State Ferry Service will need an 18% increase in fare revenues, in order to keep up with the rising costs of personnel, diesel fuel and vessel repairs.

Fare revenues currently pay for about half of the ferry service's operating costs, with the state covering the other half.

In recent months, the DOT has been discussing potential fare increases with the Maine State Ferry Advisory Board.

Jon Emerson, a North Haven resident and chair of the board, said one option would be to increase rates more during the ferry's peak summer season, to lessen the impact on year-round residents.

"Having less of an increase during the winter, when we're here, so to speak," Emerson said. "Then, when everybody's here, we can carry the load a little easier, is the thinking, anyways."

While the DOT has no proposal at this moment, Merrill said that the department expects to release a formal proposal by the end of the year.