After a couple of weeks of dry dock repairs, the Howe Island Ferry is back and returning to service — but some island residents are upset that the ferry’s capacity has been reduced from 15 vehicles to 10.
“Crews are working as quickly as possible on the transfer from the substitute ferry, the MV Quinte Loyalist, to the Frontenac Howe Islander,” Frontenac County CAO Kelly Pender said via email on Monday. “ETA for return to service is unclear as I write this, but planned for today.”
Howe Island resident Brian Dowling is erring on the side of caution when it comes to scheduling his life around the ferry repairs.
“I had some appointments that I need to do, but I’m holding off until Wednesday or Thursday,” Dowling says.
While the hours of operation for the ferry will be returning to normal soon, the number of vehicles on the ferry will be reduced.
According to information provided by Frontenac County, a Howe Island resident complained to Transport Canada that there wasn’t enough space for people to open their vehicle doors and exit simultaneously in the instance of an emergency — leading to the vehicle lanes on the ferry being reduced from three lanes to two.
Dowling estimates that the ferry will go from allowing for 15 vehicles down to 10.
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He says he’s concerned it will impact services because of greater wait times.
“Right now couriers refuse to come over here,” says Dowling. “Your furnace goes out, you hopefully can find someone who will come over and fix it.”
And if island residents can get a service, Bob Ackley worries residents will pay a premium because of increased wait times.
“They’re going to charge $100 in the lineup to wait three ferries to get over to fix something, sooner or later they’re not going to want to come,” Ackley says.
He owns Robert Ackley Marine Automotive and says he could lose 20 to 30 per cent of his business.
“People bringing over boats, they might have to wait seven, 10 boats to get a truck and trailer over,” says Ackley.
The county says it is working with the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, which owns the ferry, to get the ferry back to full capacity, but says it will take some time and it’s not clear what the fix will be.
Ackley knows what he would like to see done.
“We’re due time for a 25- or a 30-car ferry, maybe even more,” he says. “Just because of the fact that they’re building more houses on the island.”