PORTLAND — How large must a new Peaks Island car ferry be?

“We are already overwhelmed with people coming out,” Peaks Island Council Chairperson Lisa Penalver told the City Council Jan. 7.

A final decision is months away, with more public meetings before a choice is made on how Casco Bay Lines will replace the Machigonne II.

On Monday, CBL Director Hank Berg said the new car ferry will likely hold almost 600 passengers and 16 vehicles. In comparison, the Machigonne II has room for 400 passengers and 12 vehicles.

The 32-year-old Machigonne II is the primary ferry serving Peaks Island. The last ferry replaced by CBL was the Wabanaki in 2013.

As part of a fleet and schedule analysis, CBL has been working with Seattle-based  Elliott Bay Design Group on the new vehicle ferry.

Dan Doane, one of three CBL board members serving Peaks Island, said the hull and propulsion systems are design elements still being worked out. He does not expect any design to go out to bid before spring.

There is $10 million on hand for a new ferry, the first of two CBL will buy. The Maquoit II will also be replaced, but that funding has not been obtained.

Ridership to Peaks has been increasing 2 percent annually, Berg said, while annual vehicle and freight use has increased at least 10 percent.

“The goal is to design the vessel that can be handled at Portland and Peaks wharves,” he said. “It will use the infrastructure there.”

Penalver doubts it is possible.

“Our infrastructure is not designed to get 600 people on the hour,” she said.

Doane said he plans to speak to island councilors when they meet at 6:15 p.m. Jan. 23 about the process and replacement plans.

“It has got to have more room,” he said Monday about the new ferry, because wider vehicles alone require greater capacity to make everything fit. The design also needs to have more space for bicycles, and better accommodate people bringing carts.

Penalver warned city councilors the added capacity increases other needs.

“If this were an event … you would have to have medical facilities, restrooms security, shelters, food, water, the basics, and we don’t have those,” she said.

Doane said he doesn’t see the island being overrun.

“We can control the counts, and I will actually go over all of this,” he said, adding he will save specifics for the island council meeting.

Berg said CBL already uses other boats to serve Peaks Island as needed, meaning 600 people may be arriving at any given time via two ferries. Because they are limited by Maine Public Utilities Commission to five vessels, with one serving as a backup, this has affected service to other islands.

“This next boat will be in place for 30 years,” Berg said. “We want to have something that will satisfy the requirements for as long as possible.”

David Harry can be reached at 780-9092 or [email protected]orecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Vehicles board the Machigonne II ferry in Portland on Jan. 9. The 32-year-old ferry is scheduled for replacement, likely by a larger vessel.

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