The Working Waterfront

Court rules DOT erred in ferry rate hike

State to host hearing on Nov. 28

Staff Writer
Posted 2018-11-19
Last Modified 2018-11-19

The Maine Superior Court has ruled the Department of Transportation failed to follow the correct procedure when it raised fares on the Maine State Ferry Service earlier this year. The ruling came after the town of Islesboro filed suit against DOT.

The new rates, which went into effect May 21, raised the rate for a driver and car traveling to or from Islesboro from $13.75 for a ticket purchased on-island, to $30, regardless of where it was purchased.

“The new toll rates were not determined through a process that was consistent with the requirements for rulemaking as set forth in the Maine Administrative Procedure Act,” Judge M. Michaela Murphy wrote in the Nov. 2 decision.

DOT will host a public rulemaking hearing at noon on Nov. 28 at the University of Maine Hutchinson Center in Belfast to presumably re-enact the new rates. Islesboro’s select board has scheduled an information meeting to help residents prepare for the hearing at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Kinnicutt Center adjacent to Islesboro Central School.

The island town failed to persuade the judge that residents have suffered irreparable harm from the higher rates. Murphy writes that the rates may ultimately remain the same if the ferry service follows the correct procedure in adopting them.

She does leave the door open for Islesboro to seek reparations through the rulemaking process by requesting DOT “adopt a temporary toll rate that is lower,” so residents can “recoup whatever losses they may have suffered from paying the increased toll rates during the … litigation.”

— Tom Groening