A new bus hub in Bangor’s Pickering Square that’s been nearly 10 years in the making will cost more than twice what the city originally anticipated.
The City Council on Monday will decide whether to award Westbrook-based Benchmark Corporation a $3.4 million contract to build the new transit center, which will serve as the hub for the region’s Community Connector bus system and replace a bus terminal in the nearby Pickering Square parking garage that the city removed in 2019.
Benchmark submitted the lowest bid among the four firms that submitted bids, including DP Porter Contractors of Hermon, King Construction Services of Machias and Nickerson & O’Day of Brewer.
Work could begin as soon as next month.
While Benchmark submitted the lowest bid, it was still about $1.8 million higher than the original estimate for the cost of the project, which was about $1.6 million. A number of factors contributed to the greatly increased cost, including soil condition issues at the site, the volatility of the current bidding environment, and long lead time on certain construction materials, particularly steel joists, according to John Theriault, Bangor’s city engineer.
The city initially expected to pay for the project with a $1.29 million federal grant that required that the city chip in about $322,000 in local funds.
Faced with a 2023 deadline to use those federal funds and the greatly increased cost to build the transit center, the city ended up turning to the Maine Department of Transportation for additional funding. The department, using federal funds, was able to award an additional $1.8 million for the project.
The city must match 20 percent, or about $448,000, to receive the funds. Debbie Laurie, Bangor’s interim city manager, said the city can obtain those funds from various existing city sources.
If the city approves accepting the new funds and awarding the construction contract to Benchmark, work could begin the first week of September. Given the challenges in sourcing all materials, however, the project could take well over a year to complete, stretching into late 2022 and possibly 2023.
The new hub is part of a large-scale remodel of Pickering Square. In 2019, work was completed on a project to redesign the Merchant’s Plaza area, which included extensive landscaping work, changing the entrance to the parking garage, and removing the old bus station, which was housed in the garage. In July of this year, a new steel truss footbridge spanning the Kenduskeag Stream opened, replacing the crumbling old footbridge. A temporary bus hub is now in Pickering Square, but it lacks a heated shelter or a functioning bathroom.
The new transit center will feature a climate-controlled indoor waiting area as well as a covered outdoor waiting area, interactive schedule information kiosks, and public restrooms. It was designed by Artifex, a local architectural firm.