TRENTON — After years of contentious debate, the Maine Department of Transportation (MDOT) appears to be winning over critics of its proposed Acadia Gateway Center. A joint project between Acadia National Park and the MDOT, the facility will include a transportation hub, welcome center, restrooms, bus maintenance facility, long-term parking and office space. The entrance of the facility is planned for a stretch of land on the west side of Route 3 next to the Bar Harbor Weathervanes and Cupolas Shop.
Several residents who have been vehemently opposed to the center in the past attended a public hearing Tuesday and spoke in support of the $20 million project.
Still, some question the benefit of the facility. In fact, the center would only remove about 400 cars per day from the road during peak season said Paul Murphy of Downeast Transportation.
The center would not become a parking lot for the park, but would more likely be an extension of Acadia into Trenton that would draw more visitors to the town, said project manager Peggy Duval.
“This is probably the first build-out of this type for the state,” said Ms. Duval. The project has received substantial support and funds from the Federal Transit Administration and the National Park Service.
For construction to move forward, the center would require a rezoning of the rural development district where the property now sits. Voters will take up the rezoning issue on the open floor of town meeting May 30.
Although they appear supportive at this stage, selectmen and members of the planning board have yet to make an official recommendation on the project.
Were the rezoning contract to be voted down at town meeting, the MDOT would not be able to bring it back to the town for a number of years. If approved, the MDOT plans to put the preliminary construction for the project out to bid some time this year.
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