Casco Bay Lines, Portland and friends celebrated the new, glassy, 4,500-square-foot addition to its terminal the last week of August. “I characterize this year as transformational,” said Hank Berg, general manager of the ferry line at the ceremony christening the new terminal. Berg said the new design will help people see the ferries and better enjoy their time waiting to pick up passengers or to board a ferry bound for the islands. Helping to cut the ribbon at the ceremony were U.S. Senator Susan Collins, MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt and Portland Mayor Michael Brennan, Maine State Senate Assistant Majority Leader Anne Haskell, State Representative Dick Farnsworth and State Representative Arthur Verow, a member of the Maine Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Transportation.
"It's an open area, it's light, and there's a lot more room," Berg said. "It's really become a destination, not just a transit stop."
Three years went into planning and construction of the new terminal. The first phase of expansion began last fall and cost $2.8 million. An additional $800,000 will be spent on the marine structure outside the terminal.
“The concept was to blend the inside and outside areas where most activity takes place,” Berg said. The new addition to the ferry terminal, which faces the harbor and offers views of the line’s fleet and boarding areas, opened in early July. It more than doubles the size of the old terminal. And what was once the ticketing area and waiting room will be areas for maintenance, storage, as well as a conference room and employee area. The expansion also fits the shift in gates most frequently used for departures and arrivals.
In 1988 when the original terminal opened, passengers mostly used gates 1, 2 and 3, Berg noted. Larger ferries in service led to a shift to use gates 4 through 6 more frequently.
The new terminal was designed by Portland-based Scott Simons Architects and constructed with Scarborough-based Landry French Construction Company as the general contractor.
A $2.56 million Federal Transit Administration grant for the second phase of work was received in June, a job that will carry its own challenges because of the narrow footprint and shared space beyond the terminal walls. Work in the second phase will include finishing the conversion of the older terminal area to administrative and storage areas and improvements to passenger pickup and drop-off zones, Berg said.
Berg estimated 27,000 vehicles use the car ferry each year, but notes that accommodating vehicles dropping off and picking up passengers will also be a concern. There also may be an opportunity to improve the logistics for freight loading in the second phase.
Ferries departing from the Portland terminal serve six different islands in Casco Bay with daily service from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
Scheduled ferry service to the islands started in 1870, and in 1878 a permanent year-round company was formed to handle scheduled service to the inner bay islands.