Published April 05. 2013 2:00PM Updated April 06. 2013 12:07AM
Lyme — The state Department of Transportation plans to double fares on the Chester-Hadlyme and Rocky Hill-Glastonbury ferries starting July 1.
The plan, announced in a press release Friday, will increase car fares from $3 to $6 per crossing. Passengers and bicyclists would be charged $2, up from the current $1. The discount book of 20 tickets will rise from $40 to $80.
Public meetings on the fare increases will be held on May 20 at Rocky Hill Community Center, Room 1, and on May 22 at the Chester Meeting House.
The DOT said in the release that fare increases, which have not occurred since 2003, are needed because of rising operating costs.
"We are committed to maintaining the ferry operations serving tourists, commuters, pedestrians and bicyclists alike," transportation Commissioner James P. Redeker said in a statement. "Raising the fares has been carefully considered. Fare increases are never popular, but costs for operating the ferries have consistently been significantly greater than passenger revenues, resulting in a state subsidy of $651,000 in the most recent fiscal year."
The Chester-Hadlyme Ferry carried 37,811 vehicles and 6,290 bicyclists or pedestrians in 2012, according to DOT spokesman Kevin Nursick. The operational loss was $297,481.
"The fare increase that we are proposing is not because we want them to close," Nursick said of the two ferries. "It's because we want them to be a little more profitable."
The state considered closing the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry in 2011, but it was saved from closure by a union deal.
In the DOT news release, Redeker said the DOT developed a Strategic Business Plan with the Connecticut River Ferry Task Force and added "environmentally compliant engines" to the two ferries during the 2012-13 winter. The DOT also is adding road signs to identify each ferry as a "Historic Connecticut River Ferry."
In a separate matter, the Chester-Hadlyme Ferry, which opened Monday for the season, temporarily shut down twice this week, once on Thursday and once on Friday, due to an electric issue with the propulsion system, Nursick said.
The ferry began operating again at around 4 p.m. Friday.