AUGUSTA — The Maine Department of Transportation has ordered 21 replacement buses for the Island Explorer transit system, which serves Acadia National Park and surrounding communities, for a total of nearly $4.99 million.
Funds from the Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Transportation Program will cover the cost.
Sue Moreau, the department’s manager of multimodal planning, announced the issuance of the bus “delivery order” in an email to the Islander on Tuesday.
The buses will be built by Hometown Trolley of Crandon, Wis., which was the only manufacturer to submit a bid. The buses are expected to be delivered prior to the start of the 2018 Island Explorer season next June.
All but one of the new buses will replace ones that are currently in the fleet.
“We have 20 buses that have either reached or are beyond their rated useful life, which is 10 years,” said Paul Murphy, general manager of Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer system.
He said six buses that have been used as spares are 17 years old. There are currently 34 buses in the fleet, including the spares.
Murphy said the six spares will be “put to rest,” and at least six of the buses that are being replaced in the everyday fleet will be used as spares.
“So there will be one extra bus, and it’s just to complement the current fleet,” he said. “We need it on busy days.”
The new buses are to be the same size as the ones they are replacing: 30 feet long with 26 passenger seats, plus space and safety equipment for two wheelchairs. Like the buses currently in the fleet, the new ones will be powered by propane.
Announcement of the bus order came three days prior to this Friday’s start of the 2018 Island Explorer season, which runs through Columbus Day. The free bus service carried 575,397 passengers in 2016, a 9 percent increase over the previous year.