Lincoln County Planner Robert Faunce is still hoping to have a Wiscasset to Bootbay shuttle service available this summer. (Kathy Onorato, LCN file photo)
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By Kathy Onorato
Alternative funding sources will be needed in order to fund a shuttle service from Wiscasset to Boothbay this summer, according to Lincoln County Planner Robert Faunce.
Faunce said state Department of Transportation officials gave the discouraging news at a recent meeting, stating the plan will require both a pre-feasibility and feasibility study before the project is eligible for any federal money.
“Therefore, the earliest any federal funds could be made available for the shuttle project would be 2016,” Faunce said in an email Feb. 19. “Once the pre-feasibility study is complete and found acceptable, we would then apply.”
Faunce said DOT officials have not yet specified what needs to be included in the pre-feasibility study, he said it is likely to be prepared by the Lincoln County Regional Planning office and be paid for with Lincoln County’s current transportation planning contract with the DOT.
“Our position has consistently been that the shuttle project and the feasibility study should be considered separately,” Faunce said.
A proposal was submitted last year by the Lincoln County Regional Planning office to do a county-wide transit feasibility study but DOT felt it was premature, Faunce said. He said the proposal was submitted before Maine Eastern Railroad announced plans for expanding services.
The feasibility study would include the shuttle project as well as other transit possibilities, Faunce said. The study would be partially funded with federal transportation money, Faunce said.
“Our sense last year was that it would cost about $25,000 to $30,000 whereas DOT staff feels it would cost perhaps twice that,” Faunce said. “Match requirements vary considerably so we are unsure what our portion of the cost might be.”
Back in December 2013, Lincoln County Commissioners pledged support of the service by voting to spend $1000 to help get the service started.
Faunce, along with Catherine Fossett, executive director of the Boothbay Region Chamber of Commerce; and Laurie Smith, former Wiscasset town manager made a presentation to the commissioners highlighting the benefits and potential impact on economic development in Lincoln County by providing this service to train passengers.
With the expansion of services planned for Maine Eastern Railroad from Brunswick to Rockland, Faunce said it is likely more people would take advantage of the train service if Boothbay Harbor could be a destination of people using the train service. That is where the shuttle service could help get passengers from the Wiscasset train stop to Boothbay.
Smith said the shuttle service could help keep traffic moving through Wiscasset during the summer months, which is a regional transportation issue.
Commissioner Hamilton Meserve supported the idea of the shuttle service because it is an opportunity for economic development, he said.
In December, Faunce told the commissioners the estimated cost of starting the program would be about $45,000, anticipating 80 percent of the cost to be federally funded, leaving a cost-share of about $9000.
Along with the commissioner’s $1000 pledge of support, the towns of Boothbay and Boothbay Harbor have each agreed to give $2000; Lincoln County Regional Planning office, $1000; Boothbay Harbor Region Chamber of Commerce, $1000; and the Boothbay Railroad Village, $250.
“Consequently, we are looking at other potential funding opportunities for the shuttle this coming summer but it has been challenging,” Faunce said.