access regional tourism information, purchase park entrance passes, and connect with transit options

Construction underway on New Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton

Sun, 05/28/2023 - 8:00am

TRENTON — On May 22, the Maine Department of Transportation joined with local, state, and federal partners from both the public and private sectors to celebrate the beginning of construction on the new Acadia Gateway Center in Trenton.

This project represents the culmination of years of partnering and planning to create a welcome center and transit hub for Downeast Maine and Acadia National Park. Once completed, the Acadia Gateway Center will serve as a location where visitors can access regional tourism information, purchase park entrance passes, and connect with transit options to help them explore the region car-free. This project will incorporate several sustainability features, including a geothermal heating and cooling system, a rooftop solar panel array, and electric vehicle charging stations.

"Partnerships and perseverance pay off," said Bruce Van Note, Commissioner of the Maine Department of Transportation, in a news release. "The team at MaineDOT is proud to be delivering this long-awaited project. We are grateful to our partners at the Federal Transit Administration, the National Park Service, Friends of Acadia, and Downeast Transportation. Not only will the Acadia Gateway Center enhance the experiences of the millions of visitors who come to this region every year, but also it will have long-lasting economic and sustainability impacts on the Downeast region."

The new Acadia Gateway Center is being constructed on a site in Trenton that sits between Ellsworth and Mount Desert Island; its location was designed to intercept traffic traveling south on Route 3 before arriving onto Mount Desert Island.

"The Town of Trenton is pleased to see the completion of this project," said Fred Ehrlenbach, First Selectman for the Town of Trenton. "The permitting of the Acadia Gateway Center and the Downeast Transportation facility is the result of collaboration between MaineDOT and the town. Hopefully, the visitors and locals alike will take advantage of this free transportation service."

With nearly four million visits, Acadia National Park was the fifth most visited national park in 2022. According to a recent report by the Maine Office of Tourism, visitors to Downeast Maine (including Acadia) had an economic impact of more than $1.5 billion last year.

"National Parks are a popular destination for travelers, and as one of the most visited, Acadia is a major draw for travel to Maine," said Steve Lyons, Director of the Maine Office of Tourism. "The new transportation hub in Trenton will improve the visitor experience with expanded park access and information about regional and statewide attractions."

Current construction represents the final two phases of work that began more than 20 years ago. The first phase, completed in 2012, included the construction of a park-and-ride lot as well as office space and a bus maintenance facility for Downeast Transportation, which operates the Island Explorer shuttle.

"First enshrined in a memorandum of understanding among 20 partners in 1999, completion of the Acadia Gateway Center marks the realization of Island Explorer's Phase 3 and the culmination of a quarter century of planning, partnership, and perseverance," said Paul Murphy, Executive Director of Downeast Transportation, Inc. "We stand on the shoulders of visionaries, too many of whom are gone and unable to see the ultimate fruit of their great work, for which we are unspeakably grateful."

The Friends of Acadia began working on this project with the other partners in 2002. In 2007, FOA purchased the land being used for the park-and-ride lot, bus maintenance facility, and welcome center and sold it to MaineDOT. The group has remained a partner throughout planning efforts and is funding part of the Acadia Gateway Center construction.

"Thank you to all of the donors who helped make this exciting project possible," said Eric Stiles, President & CEO of Friends of Acadia. "The Acadia Gateway Center is critically important infrastructure to help ensure that Acadia's visitors have a positive experience. With park visitation on the rise, it will reduce traffic congestion by providing vital opportunities for a car-free experience in the park."

In addition to private support from Friends of Acadia and public support from MaineDOT, the National Park Service and Federal Transit Administration are also providing funding for the Acadia Gateway Center.

"The Acadia Gateway Center will transform how visitors experience Acadia National Park and the surrounding communities by improving access to regional tourism information and the Island Explorer bus system," said Acadia National Park Superintendent Kevin Schneider. "We are incredibly grateful to MaineDOT, the Federal Transit Administration, the Town of Trenton, and Friends of Acadia for making this idea a reality."

"The Federal Transit Administration is proud to support the Acadia Gateway Center, which will provide an easy jumping-off point for the millions of annual visitors to the park and encourage people to leave their cars behind," said FTA Regional Administrator Peter Butler. "FTA's support of this well-thought-out project is part of our work to continue to make better travel experiences, improve air quality, and take a bite out of climate change."

"Many of my favorite family memories have been made in Maine's great outdoors," said Senator Angus King, Chairman of the Senate National Parks Subcommittee. "When someone asks me what they should do on their trip to Maine, I always tell them to get outside, and there are few better places to do it than Acadia National Park. The new Acadia Gateway Center is an excellent example of how the federal and state governments can work together with local organizations to expand opportunities for the park and its surrounding communities. This transportation hub will streamline the visitor experience, reduce road congestion for the people lucky enough to live here, and protect the lands so people can continue to enjoy them for years. I'm grateful to Acadia's partners for their continued work on this project to keep our outdoors open and accessible."

In March, MaineDOT awarded the Acadia Gateway Center construction contract to Nickerson & O'Day of Brewer for $27.7 million. On-site construction work started in early May. The project is scheduled to be finished by May 2025.