August 19, 2018

Residents Offer Suggestions on Preserving Connecticut River Ferry at Chester Meeting

CHESTER— Area residents offered suggestions on ways to preserve the Chester-Hadlyme Connecticut River ferry, including higher fares, at a public information Thursday.

About 45 residents from towns on both sides of the river turned out at the Chester Meeting House to urge state Department of Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to keep the Connecticut River ferries, including the one connecting Rocky Hill and Glastonbury, off the table in any future state budget dispute. The turnout for the meeting, which was scheduled earlier this month at a time when the ferries were threatened with closure in early September, was clearly reduced after state officials announced last week that funding for the ferries was in place through 2013 based on state employee union’s approval of the labor concession package negotiated with the administration of Governor Dannel Malloy.

Redeker, a former New Jersey Transit official, had been appointed by Malloy as permanent commissioner for DOT Thursday after serving as acting commissioner since February. A similar meeting on the ferries was held Monday in Rocky Hill.

Redeker said the department has begun work on a “long term strategic investment and operating plan,” for the ferries that should be completed before 2013. Under questioning from residents, he also declared the ferries do not have to be “revenue neutral” or a money maker for the state. “All public transportation is subsidized to some degree by the state,” he noted.

Redeker pledged to work with and consider input from citizen’s groups supporting the ferries during preparation of the plan. One group, Friends of the Connecticut River Ferries, is preparing to organize as a non-profit foundation.

Privatization and higher fares were among the suggestions from residents for preserving the ferries. David Williams of Essex said the current fare of $3 per car could be raised , possibly to $5 per car, without undercutting usage.

Both river ferries are scheduled to continue operation, interrupted only by the threat of Hurricane Irene this weekend, through the end of the ferry season in late October.

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