BRUNSWICK — A new visitors center opened at Maine Street Station this week, marking the beginning of what project proponents hope will become a transit hub and marketing tool for local businesses and attractions.
The center is owned by the town and subleased to the Brunswick Downtown Association, which will manage the facility. It opened Thursday in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend, which also doubles as the 2010 kickoff for Maine Eastern Railroad’s seasonal excursion service to Rockland.
Maine Eastern will become one of several subtenants in the visitor’s center. According to railroad Vice President Gordon Page, the passenger service expects to have an administrative office and ticket counter at the visitor’s center. Page said Maine Eastern would open the counter on Saturday, May 29, the same day Maine Eastern begins its service to Rockland.
Maine Eastern passengers will board and unload at a makeshift platform at Maine Street Station. A permanent platform is expected to be built later as part of a $35 million track rehabilitation project between Brunswick and Portland. That project is also expected to bring Amtrak Downeaster service to Maine Street Station by 2012.
In previous years, Maine Eastern passengers boarded and unloaded at a Department of Transportation lot off Cedar Street, about a block away.
The town previously considered leasing or buying a portion of the Cedar Street lot to supplement Maine Street Station’s parking. However, Town Manager Gary Brown said this week that the town was considering other options because the lot might be too far away from the development.
Although only two of Maine Street Station’s six buildings are constructed, the parking issue could come to the forefront sooner than expected, especially if the project becomes an intermodal hub.
According to Rob Jarratt, chairman of the BDA, the visitor’s center will be used by two other transit providers, and is negotiationing for a lease deal with a third.
Concord Coach Lines will move its current bus stop from Harpswell Road to Maine Street Station. The service largely accommodates Bowdoin College students who can take the bus to Portland and Boston. Coastal Trans will also move passengers from the development.
Jarratt said the BDA is also talking with a car rental company.
In addition to transit providers, Jarratt said the BDA planned to establish a strong presence at the center to promote Brunswick businesses and attractions.
“We really want to make it a destination,” Jarratt said.
For now, Jarratt said, the visitors center hours will be scheduled to accommodate Maine Eastern’s service.
Page said the service will run Saturday and Sundays for four weekends before expanding to weekdays after June 23.
A full schedule can be viewed at Maine Eastern’s website, maineeasternrailroad.com/Pages/tickets.html
Steve Mistler can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 123 or firstname.lastname@example.org