(Hartford Courant) More Lawmakers Join Fight Against Higher Ferry Fares

May 15, 2013

More Lawmakers Join Fight Against Higher Ferry Fares

By ERIK HESSELBERG, Special to The Courant
The Hartford Courant

Three more Republican legislators have joined the fight against the state’s plan to double fares on the landmark Connecticut River ferries.

State Reps. Prasad Srinvasan, R-Glastonbury, Melissa Ziobron, R-East Haddam, and Marilyn Giuliano, R-Old Saybrook, have all posted statements on their websites opposing the state Department of Transportation’s planned fare hike for the Glastonbury-Rocky Hill and Chester-Hadlyme ferries starting July 1.

State Sen. Art Linares, R-Westbrook, has also come out against the hike, which would see fares rise from $3 to $6 for vehicles and from $1 to $2 for walk-on passengers. A discount coupon book for commuters, which now costs $40 for a book of 20 coupon tickets, would increase to $80.

“We are all aware of the budgetary crisis,” said Srinvasan, who represents Glastonbury’s 31st House District. “But I think such an across-the-board doubling of fares is short-sighted. These hikes will impact ridership and that could actually decrease revenues.”

Ziobron, who represents the 34th House District, covering Colchester, East Haddam and East Hampton, agreed. “I’m not opposed to some increase,” she said. “But I want to make sure we explore all the options before we decide on a number.”

The legislators planned to meet with DOT representatives Tuesday to discuss the hikes. They also scheduled a conference call with ferry stakeholders Wednesday.

Ziobron said she planned to ask the DOT whether it had followed through on ideas for increasing revenue, which were listed in a business plan two years ago. Among the items outlined in the plan were working more closely with state tourism agencies to market the ferries as historic attractions, and including the crossings on walking and biking tours of the lower river.

Srinvasan said he thinks more could be done to advertise the history of the ferries; the Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferry, said to be the oldest in the country, was established in 1655, while a ferry was plying the river between Chester and Hadlyme before the American Revolution.

Srinvasan said the state should also explore public-private options for running the ferries and consider adding concessions near the ferry slips to generate additional income.

The ferries lost $651,000 during the most recent fiscal year, according to the DOT.

The DOT has scheduled hearings on the fare increases this month. The first is set for May 20 at the Rocky Hill Community Center, room 1; the second on May 22 at the Chester Meeting House. Both meetings start at 6:30 p.m.

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