Full speed ahead for ferry

BAR HARBOR — Ferry terminal renovations are set to go forward after receiving approval from the planning board at a special meeting and public hearing last week.

Planning board members voted to approve the major site plan application, with conditions of approval including statements from the Maine Critical Areas Program, Maine Historic Preservation Commission, Department of Environmental Protection, Army Corps of Engineers, fire marshal and public works director.

Applicants told the planning committee that the required statements had all been requested from those agencies, and were on the way.

The application was submitted in January by CES Inc. of Brewer on behalf of Bay Ferries of Canada. At the time the application was submitted, the town of Bar Harbor had not yet bought the ferry terminal from the state of Maine. Bay Ferries had also not yet entered a lease agreement with Bar Harbor through its American affiliate, Atlantic Fleet Services.

Some of the conditions of approval involved establishing the link between the applicant, the lease holder and the town of Bar Harbor as the owner of the property. To this end, the planning board asked to see the lease agreement between Bar Harbor and Atlantic Fleet Services, and the contract between Atlantic Fleet Services and Bay Ferries.

At the public hearing, Dede Daigle of the neighboring Atlantic Oceanside Hotel asked about overnight noise. Specifically, she asked if the lease with the town contained any stipulations about lighting and noise at night, and whether the town would be monitoring that.

“I know where your question comes from,” said Annette Higgins of Atlantic Fleet Services, acknowledging that in the past, night work was done on the ferry, and generators ran at night. “I don’t believe that’s the case any more,” she said, since the ferry docks in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, overnight with the new proposed schedule.

Tim Brochu of CES Inc. agreed with Higgins, stating that there would be no mechanical noise overnight, and only minimal security lighting.

The planning board discussed traffic impacts on Eden Street from the ferry operations at an earlier meeting during the completeness review for the application Feb. 6.

Brochu said his team had used traffic flow data from the Maine Department of Transportation and ferry ridership from Bay Ferries to do a preliminary trip analysis.

When the CAT operated in Bar Harbor before, there were sometimes congestion problems in the area as vehicles waited to board the ferry or turn onto Eden Street from the terminal. At one point a flashing yellow light was installed at the intersection, but “that was gone a long time ago,” Higgins said.

The heaviest traffic is expected between noon and 2 p.m. for the ferry’s daily noon arrival and 3 p.m. departure. Vehicles departing on the ferry are assigned times for boarding.

The trip analysis did not indicate there would be “stacking problems like occurred historically at the site” when there was more than one ferry arrival and departure per day, Brochu said at the Feb. 6 meeting.

“The proposed ferry schedule will clear out the major traffic impacts associated with the ferry before Jackson Laboratory’s afternoon shift change and the afternoon peak hour on Eden Street,” a report from CES in the application says.

With the major site plan application approved, Bay Ferries is set to start international ferry service between Bar Harbor and Yarmouth ports on June 21, according to Town Manager Cornell Knight. Bay Ferries has started to take reservations for daily trips.

Becky Pritchard
Former Islander reporter Becky Pritchard covered the town of Bar Harbor and was a park ranger in Acadia for six seasons.
Becky Pritchard

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