PORTLAND — Waterfront visitors next summer may not recognize the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal.

Plans are now being drawn up to renovate and expand the terminal at the foot of Franklin Street on the Maine State Pier. The project’s first phase is estimated to cost $3 million, which will be funded with the help of federal grants.

Among planned changes are improvements to the pier and a 4,500-square-foot addition that would include larger, more serviceable restrooms and an expanded waiting room surrounded by 20-foot glass walls.

Work on the pier would begin in January, with the terminal expansion scheduled to break ground in April.

The new waiting room would occupy space that is now an outdoor waiting area on the seaward side of the existing terminal, near Gates 4 and 5. The design is intended to give passengers a better view of the harbor and to provide a distinctive landmark for visitors to the waterfront.

Officials said the overhaul is long overdue.

“After 25 years, we really had to do something,” said Hank Berg, general manager of the Casco Bay Island Transit District, which operates the ferry service and the terminal.

One Peaks Island resident called the project a “great idea” as she disembarked from a ferry Tuesday morning.

“Portland has needed a better terminal for some time,” she said.

Nearly 1 million passengers ride the ferries each year, more than double the ridership the terminal was designed to accommodate when it was built in 1988. Car and freight service to the islands has increased, too.

A second, $2.6 million phase will include renovations to the employee areas, landscaping and other changes to the existing facility. That phase is on hold until further funding is received.

Work on the terminal will be challenging, because it must remain operational during construction.

“First and foremost, we’re on a working waterfront,” Berg said. “We have to keep boats coming and going each day.” He said he anticipates some “inconveniences” when construction begins.

To minimize that impact, the CBITD has conducted more than 30 meetings to get input from the public, employees and other stakeholder groups. Two public meetings were held earlier this month.

Reaction has been generally positive, according to Berg.

“There haven’t been any dramatic changes, just some adjustments,” he said.

The CBITD Board of Directors is scheduled to vote on the final design for the project Nov. 29. It must still receive approvals from the city’s Planning Board, the Board of Harbor Commissioners and other regulators.

The entire first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by November 2013.

William Hall can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @hallwilliam4.

Sidebar Elements

Commuters stream off a Casco Bay Lines ferry from Peaks Island at the Maine State Pier. Much of the outdoor waiting area, foreground, would be enclosed in a glass-walled expansion of the 25-year-old ferry terminal in Portland.

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