HARTFORD — With operating expenses exceeding income, a recent Department of Transportation plan to double fees for the two Connecticut River ferries is being met with opposition from residents along the river valley.
The state DOT wants to increase fares from $3 to $6 for vehicles and from $1 to $2 to walk-on passengers. The discount coupon book that currently goes for $40 for 20 tickets would be doubled to $80. With the ferries running at a deficit of about $650,000, the DOT says this plan will help keep both ferries viable and open.
But residents worry such a steep increase will drive ridership down and ultimately lead to the closure of Connecticut’s historic ferries. State Representatives Marilyn Giuliano (R- Old Saybrook) and Melissa Ziobron (R- East Haddam) are working with local and state officials to look for possible alternatives to doubling the fees.
“We have to be careful not to make short-sighted decisions that have the opposite of the intended result,” Giuliano said. “Doubling the fees might make sense on a balance sheet but, in practice, could be harmful to the bottom line- we need to look at all possibilities.”
“People in this region are passionate about the ferries and they play an important role in tourism including for Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam,” Ziobron added. “We have to do our due diligence to make sure we have explored all our options before we simply double the fees. This has to be an ‘all of the above’ approach.”
Giuliano and Ziobron have arranged to speak with local stakeholders and the Department of Transportation Commissioner to discuss various alternatives to the proposed fee increases.
DOT plans to hold hearings on the fare increases this month. On May 20th there is a hearing in the Rocky Hill Community Center and on May 22nd there will be a hearing at the Chester Meeting House. Both begin at 6:30pm. Giuliano and Ziobron said they would like to attend the meeting in Chester but will likely be held up in legislative session in Hartford.
Anyone wishing to speak with them regarding the proposed rate increases can feel free to call their office at 1-800-842-1423 or send an email to Marilyn.Giuliano@housegop.ct.gov or Melissa.Ziobron@housegop.ct.gov