TRENTON—The Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) received $9 million to complete Phase 2 of the Acadia Gateway Center, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins announced last Thursday.
Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2012. This included the construction of a bus maintenance garage, a Park-and-Ride lot and a propane fueling station for the Island Explorer and Downeast Transportation buses. Phase 2, to be completed in 2023, will involve the construction of an information center to be staffed by the National Park Service and Maine Office of Tourism.
The project stalled between the two phases as the MDOT sought additional funding sources. The Islander reported last year that the Acadia Gateway Center was listed in the MDOT work plan, but there was not enough funding to pay for it. Of the $12.5 million needed to build a 13,000 square-foot visitor center, MDOT had set aside only $3.8 million.
In June, U.S. Sen. Angus King joined Sen. Collins in writing the Transportation Secretary a letter to support the funding of the Acadia Gateway Center, which they wrote would “benefit the local and state economies, as well as address severe transit deficiencies in the region,” improving traffic congestion and safety.
According to John Kelly, management assistant at Acadia National Park, the Acadia Gateway Center will offer visitors park entrance passes, information about the park and Island Explorer bus system, and regional and state tourist information. There will also be a gift shop run by Eastern National, a park concessioner.
“Day users can park for free and get on the bus,” Kelly said in an interview with the Islander in December. He expects the Island Explorer bus system to be in higher demand when the reservation system for high-use areas in the park begins. “They’ll have the option to ride the Island Explorer to that place without a reservation,” he said.
Kelly said the $9 million from the federal government will help get the project closer to completion. “With this funding, we’re very close,” he said, noting also that the National Park Service will contribute 17–18 percent of the project cost.
MDOT spokesman Paul Merrill said he expects the National Park Service’s contribution to be $4 million. MDOT has already received $1 million from Friends of Acadia. Efficiency Maine will cover the cost of installing electric vehicle charging stations at an estimated cost of $65,000.
If all the funding sources come together as expected, Merrill said, MDOT will begin final design for phase 2 this fall. “Construction will occur in 2021 to 2022, and the building will be open for business for the 2023 Island Explorer season.”