ME: Casco Bay Ferry Service Gets $2.5M for More Upgrades

June 03--U.S. Department of Transportation will award $2.5 million to the Casco Bay Island Transit District to improve the ferry terminal on Portland's waterfront.

The grant, announced Monday, will allow the ferry operator to move forward on the second phase of a major terminal renovation.

The first phase, a $3.5 million project to be completed this summer, involves expanding the waiting area by 4,500 square feet and moving it closer to gates 4 and 5, which are used more than the other gates.

Also, new restrooms are being installed closer to the ticket counter so employees can better monitor them, and larger windows are being installed so passengers can better see the ferries approach.

The second phase will complete all remaining work on the building, but most of the federal money will be spent on improvements to make it easier and safer for passengers and vehicles to move around on the adjoining Maine State Pier, said Hank Berg, general manager of the district.

"It's quite an investment in Portland's waterfront with this project," Berg said.

He said work on the second phase will begin in the fall and will probably take 18 months.

The improvements include a wider sidewalk near the "Whaling Wall" along the Maine State Pier, creating a designated drop-off area and establishing a bus stop that will allow Metro buses to park without hindering traffic on Commercial Street.

The project, which was selected on a competitive basis, is funded through the Department of Transportation's Ferry Boat Discretionary Program.

Maine's U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, announced the grant on Monday.

Pingree, a Democrat who has an office on the nearby Portland Fish Pier, said in a prepared statement that she has enjoyed seeing the updates and improvements at the ferry terminal over the last few months. She said the improvements will streamline operations while creating a more enjoyable and convenient experience for passengers.

The ferry terminal, which was built in 1988, has had increased use by passengers and freight traffic. Nearly 1 million people use the ferry service each year, more than double the number the terminal was designed to accommodate.

Casco Bay Lines owns five ferries and serves Peaks, Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague and Cliff islands.

Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at:

tbell@pressherald.com

Copyright 2014 - Portland Press Herald, Maine

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