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Federal grant will fund hybrid electric ferry

Monday, January 30th 2023

Federal grant will fund hybrid electric ferry

Penobscot Bay will soon be home to a hybrid-electric ferry. U.S. Senator Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, have announced that the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law included funding to support, improve, and modernize passenger ferry services in Maine, including the construction of a hybrid ferry serving Islesboro. The funding was awarded to the Maine Department of Transportation  through a program to support passenger ferry systems as they transition to climate-friendly technologies. 

The Islesboro-Lincolnville route will receive a $28 million grant for the construction of a hybrid-electric ferry to replace the 35-year-old vessel currently serving the route, according to a press release. The new hybrid-electric vessel will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote environmental sustainability for the roughly 600 residents of the island of Islesboro, a rural community in upper Penobscot Bay that relies on passenger ferry service.

The  Margaret Chase Smith Islesboro route is the most traveled of the six island routes served by the Maine State Ferry Service, serving roughly 600 year-round residents.  The route carried over 180,000 walk-on passengers and over 73,000 vehicles in 2019 alone, according to the release. Pingree lives on North Haven, which also is served by the MSFS. 

In addition, MaineDOT was awarded $4.9 million to support ferry service staffing, maintenance, and customer communication in efforts to maintain and enhance service reliability. In addition, as MaineDOT adds cleaner vessels—such as hybrid-electric vessels—to its fleet, the federal funding will support cleaner, reduced emissions transportation for customers, the island and mainland communities, and the surrounding areas.

“Maine’s ferries are indispensable to those who live and work in our island communities, providing passenger, freight, and postal services and transporting students to school and people to their jobs,” said Collins, in the release. “By improving recruitment and retainment efforts for vessel crews and implementing an environmentally friendly engine technology, these investments will enhance the future of ferry service.”

“Maine’s year-round island communities are a vital part of our state’s history, culture, and economy, and the ferries that serve them are critical and in need of modernization. As we electrify our auto and trucking fleet and expand our network of charging stations throughout the state, ferries are a natural extension of that evolution and shouldn’t be left behind,” said Pingree. “This funding will not only maintain vital ferry service but will also make operations more reliable and climate friendly as we build a more sustainable future.”

Photo: The Margaret Chase Smith leaving Lincolnville Beach. Photo by Mimi Steadman

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