An artist's rendering of the exterior of the new waiting room, which will be twice the size of the existing waiting room and allow passengers to watch the boats come and go.
By Tom Bell
PORTLAND – Work is expected to begin in February on the first phase of a $3 million expansion of the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal on Portland's waterfront.
While the car carrier Machigonne II sits in dry dock for its annual maintenance, crews will repair and replace pilings on the portion of the Maine State Pier the ferry line leases from the city, said Hank Berg, general manager of Casco Bay Lines.
He said the Machigonne II is scheduled to be out of service in February and March.
In the project's second phase, starting in April, crews will work on the terminal building, expanding the waiting area by 4,500 square feet and moving it closer to gates 4 and 5, the most heavily used gates. The entire project is expected to be finished by October, Berg said.
"This is a good thing for the city and the waterfront and our passengers," he said.
The quasi-public ferry line owns five ferries and serves Peaks, Little Diamond, Great Diamond, Long, Chebeague and Cliff islands. It carries 977,000 passengers, 5,300 tons of freight and 25,000 vehicles a year.
The ferry line plans to issue a request for construction bids for the first phase this month.
Berg said ferry fares will not increase because of the project.
The Federal Transit Administration and the Federal Highway Administration will pay close to 80 percent of the project's cost. The remaining money will come from two sources: $360,000 from a state bond and $327,00 from the ferry line's share of the revenue from the Casco Bay Lines parking garage.
The ferry line's 1985 lease agreement with Portland requires the city to use a portion of the parking revenue to fund boat replacement and improvements to the terminal.
The project will ease congestion that occurs on the pier while passengers wait for ferries to arrive, said Bill Overlock of Long Island, treasurer of the ferry line's board of directors.
People wait outside because they can't see boats at gates 4 and 5 from inside the waiting room, he said. The expansion will allow people to see the ferry arrivals from the waiting room.
The facility also will have new, larger bathrooms, which will be closer to the ticket counter so employees can keep an eye on their use.
"I think, for the most part, this is really very welcomed by the islands," Overlock said.
The terminal was built in 1988, when the ferry line moved from its cramped location on Custom House Wharf.
Nearly 1 million people a year now use the ferry service, more than double the number the terminal was designed to accommodate.
Tom Bohan of Peaks Island said he still thinks of the terminal on the Maine State Pier as the "new terminal." While he is pleased that the project will create some jobs, he doesn't think it's necessary.
A larger waiting room that provides views of arriving ferries is "not at the top of anybody's list," he said.
For most islanders, he said, getting more parking spaces on the mainland is a bigger priority.
Another Peaks Island resident, Henry Myers, 80, said he sees greater needs elsewhere in Portland, such as improving the city's aging school buildings.
He said congestion on the pier occurs only during a few days in the summer.
"I am happy with the waiting room the way it is," he said.
Staff Writer Tom Bell can be contacted at 791-6369 or at: