The visitor center and transportation hub at the Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton, as currently designed, would cost an estimated $12.5 million. IMAGE COURTESY OF ANP

Acadia Gateway downsizing eyed

TRENTON — A lack of federal money for construction of the combination visitor center and transportation hub at the Acadia Gateway Center, as currently designed, is prompting a significant downsizing of the project.

So far, the Federal Transit Administration has given the Maine Department of Transportation (DOT) only $3.8 million of the estimated $12.5 million cost of building the facility.

“We are faced with an $8.7 million shortfall,” Acadia National Park Planner John Kelly told the park’s advisory commission on Monday. “Given that, we have asked the Maine DOT to work with the [design and engineering] contractor, AECOM, to see if there are any cost savings by downscaling, redesigning that building in some way to make the deficit much smaller.”

Kelly told the Islander that Acadia and the DOT do not have a specific price point in mind.

“We’re not trying to get it down to a particular dollar figure, because the function of the building will drive that,” he said. “But we would like to significantly reduce it and probably get it closer to $3.8 than $12.5 million.”

The visitor center/transportation hub is where visitors would be able to pick up park and regional tourism information and get advice on what to see and do in the area. It would include a retail shop operated by Eastern National, a nonprofit organization that supports National Park Service operations.

Visitors could leave their cars in the large lot that already has been constructed at the Gateway Center and take the Island Explorer buses to Acadia and the villages on Mount Desert Island. In fact, the main purpose of the Gateway Center is to reduce the amount of traffic in the park.

The budget for the current design and engineering plan for the visitor center/transportation hub was $1.28 million.

Kelly said the need to redesign the facility is one of two reasons the project will be on hold for a while. The other, he said, is so that the function of the facility can be considered as the park develops a comprehensive transportation plan over the next year.

Steve Katona, chairman of the Acadia Advisory Commission, said he hopes that in redesigning the visitor center-transportation hub, more attention will be paid to conservation and renewable energy. He said that would be beneficial “both in minimizing the amount of energy used and maximizing the amount that can be gained renewably, both for financial reasons and for demonstration reasons.”

Three years ago, the first phase of the Acadia Gateway Center was completed. It included construction of the Island Explorer bus maintenance and storage facility, the entrance road from Route 3 and installation of utilities for the entire complex. Phase 1 cost about $14 million, 78 percent of which was federal money.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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