The design of a proposed new ferry that would serve Swans Island, Frenchboro and Bass Harbor will be discussed at a public meeting Oct. 7 at the Swans Island School. GRAPHIC COURTESY OF MAINE DOT

Ferry design input sought

SWANS ISLAND — A new ferry that would connect Swans Island, Frenchboro and Bass Harbor is being designed and is tentatively slated to go into service in 2020.

The Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) will hold an informational meeting on the proposed new ferry and solicit public input on its design on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Swans Island School.

DOT project manager Nate Benoit said Tuesday that the new ferry would replace the current vessel, Captain Henry Lee.

As currently envisioned, it would be 24 feet longer and 2 feet wider than Lee. It would have a carrying capacity of the equivalent of 23 cars, six more than the current vessel. Its interior cabin space of 975 square feet would have 107 passenger seats; Captain Henry Lee has only 50 seats in 555 square feet of cabin space.

The new vessel also would have an elevator and full ADA access, greater vertical clearance for trucks, port and starboard passenger cabins on the second deck, and a third deck with outdoor seating.

Benoit said the additional capacity is needed, especially in the summer.

“My understanding is that during the summer, there are cars that are left behind at Bass Harbor,” he said.

The purpose of the public meeting on Swans Island next week, Benoit said, is to inform people of the DOT’s plans and to get their thoughts on the current conceptual design.

“Our mind is not made up at this point,” he said. “We have a design that we think is pretty good, that we would like to take to the next step, the final design. However, we are looking for public acknowledgement that they are in support of where we are now.”

Benoit said that once the state takes delivery of the new ferry, it would be put into service on the Lincolnville-Islesboro route for four to six months, while the largest vessel in the Maine State Ferry Service fleet, Margaret Chase Smith, is in dry dock for major rehabilitation. Then the new ferry, which does not yet have a name, would take over the Swans Island-Frenchboro-Bass Harbor service.

At that point, Captain Henry Lee would become the primary backup vessel for the state’s ferry fleet fleet. The current primary backup, Governor Curtis, which has been in service for 57 years, is to be retired and sold.

The DOT does not yet have the money to build the new ferry. It does have a $1 million federal grant and $250,000 in state funds for the design and engineering of both the new ferry and the rehabilitation of Margaret Chase Smith.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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